Lineup changes for Habs and Leafs ahead of Game 6; high pressure for both clubs to win tonight

Published May 29, 2021 at 1:04 PM

There's plenty to get excited about for both the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens as they prepare for an intriguing Game 6 clash. Of course, the number of spectators in attendance at the Bell Center should make a major difference in the overall atmosphere, but there look to be some lineup changes on both sides as well.

For the Leafs, they appear to be preparing to welcome back big deadline acquisition Nick Foligno, who missed the last 3 games due to a lower-body injury. His status is still day-to-day and Sheldon Keefe called the gritty forward a game-time decision after practice, however Foligno took line rushes between William Nylander and Alex Galchenyuk at practice, indicating that he is more likely than not to return for Game 6.

In addition, rookie Rasmus Sandin will be coming out of the lineup in favor of the more experienced Travis Dermott on Saturday. Sandin shouldered a lot of the blame for two of the Habs' 4 goals in the contest due to a pair of uncharacteristic giveaways in the first period, which ultimately led to him being benched for the vast majority of Thursday's game. Dermott should provide the Leafs with a more stable presence on that third pair, next to veteran Zach Bogosian.

On the Habs side of things, defenseman Jon Merrill is sidelined due to an injury that he sustained in Game 5, bringing Brett Kulak back into the Habs' lineup for Game 6, with the Canadiens also appearing to favor experience over high-end potential, with Romanov remaining on the sidelines.

Like the Leafs, the Habs are contemplating a move up front as well, as energy forward Jake Evans appears to be nearing a return to action. Like Foligno in Toronto, Evans' status is also day-to-day and he too remains a game-time decision.

The pressure has never been higher in this series. For Montreal, it's a chance to extend the series to 7 games, where truly anything can happen. If the Habs can come out as hot as they did in Game 5 and push the Leafs back on their heels early and sneak a couple by Buds netminder Jack Campbell, we could be in for a very exciting finish in Toronto to close out the first round.

On the Leafs' side of things, an early collapse, uncharacteristic of this 2020-21 Leafs team, cost them the Game 5 victory as the Buds took over in every major metric as the game went on, eventually coming back from a 3-0 deficit to force an overtime period, where a bad giveaway by former Hab Alex Galchenyuk sent young phenoms Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki back the other way for a rare OT 2-on-0 where they made no mistake.

If the Leafs want to carry any real momentum on to the second round, they need to get after the Habs early and not give them anything easy tonight. This Leafs team is capable of pure dominance on any given night. Hopefully, for their sake, that's the effort they bring into Montreal and close out this series in 6 - because if this thing reaches Game 7.. Oh boy.. The Leafs will be in trouble.

Latest 10 stories