OTTAWA – Coaches don’t put much stock in the pre-season, but Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe and Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith agree that it’s a time for peripheral players to step up.
Michael Amadio put away the winner with 1:25 remaining in regulation, while Pierre Engvall scored twice as Toronto downed Ottawa 3-1 on Monday night.
Engvall scored on the power play and then added an empty netter for the Leafs (3-1-0), who got 26 saves from Jack Campbell. Engvall’s production came as Toronto’s lineup was missing some of its biggest offensive stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares.
“That’s what this time of year is for, with the way we put the lineups together,” said Keefe. “We knew it was going to create those opportunities for players. You want to give them that chance.”
Engvall said he knew he had to make the most of the opportunity he was being given, especially as he’s been dealing with hip issues throughout training camp.
“I’ve got to fight for my spot,” said Engvall. “It was good to be out there, really fun, I got to play with good players too.”
Smith said his team didn’t take advantage of the starless Toronto lineup, with the Maple Leafs dominating Ottawa in the opening period.
“I think what happens is you don’t see Matthews, you don’t see Marner, Tavares, so you think you’re going to just go out there and the game is going to come to you,” Smith said. “What happens is the first ten, 12 minutes we don’t have any shots, we don’t have any zone time and the other team starts to build some confidence and they just stuck with it and grinded one out.”
Connor Brown had the lone goal for the Senators, now 2-2-0 in the pre-season. Matt Murray, playing his second complete game, was solid stopping 24 shots.
Toronto had shut out the Senators 4-0 less than a week ago, when the teams met for the first time, and will close out the pre-season against one another Saturday night.
“Give them credit, they have guys that are on their last leg trying to make the National Hockey League and they’re playing that game,” said Smith. “Some of those guys it’s a playoff game for them, it’s do or die…and they deserve to win.”
Another area of concern for Smith was the Senators’ power play. After five pre-season games Ottawa is 1 for 20 with the man advantage.
“The result is one thing if you had all the chances, but we didn’t have any chances,” said Smith. “We had like one or two so the power play was a major issue (Monday).”
Tim Stutzle, who did have a couple chances on the power play, knows the team needs to be better.
“Obviously if you don’t score a goal it’s not good,” said Stutzle. “We had a lot of chances on the power play and they had some penalties and in the end I had like two Grade A chances and just can’t score.”
Ottawa lost centre Colin White early in the period with what appeared to be a right shoulder injury forcing Smith to juggle lines.
Smith said White is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday, but anticipates he will be out for a while, which opens the door for Andrew Agozzino.
Toronto defencemen Jake Muzzin and Travis Dermott were both out of the lineup. Keefe said that they were day-to-day and could be in the Maple Leafs’ lineup as soon as Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto.
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