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Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell among NHL stars

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Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell have another tour date added to their busy February, but they won’t mind attending.

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Both Maple Leafs were named Thursday night to the Atlantic Division roster for the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas – Matthews the captain as voted by fans, Campbell chosen by league hockey operations.

Matthews, with 24 goals this season, is the reigning Rocket Trophy winner Richard, has been selected for All-Star Weekend for the fifth time in a row, while Campbell, who has just reached a career high of 27 matches in one season, debuts. With a .935 save percentage, Campbell is second behind Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers in goaltending with more than 20 games.

Matthews was unable to play in his final all-star invite in 2020 due to a wrist injury, so Atlantic missed his scoring touch in the four-division 3-on-3 tournament and his magic of stick in the skills competition.

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The Atlantic’s initial roster includes goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and defenseman Victor Hedman of the Stanley Cup champion Lightning from Tampa Bay, center Patrice Bergeron from the Bruins and Canadian rivals Nick Suzuki from Montreal and Drake Batherson from Ottawa.

February was set to include a 2.5-week break for the Leafs, before COVID-19 forced eight games to be moved. With All-Star Weekend February 4-5 – following Toronto’s February 1 game in New Jersey – those eight canceled competitions will be compressed into a window from February 6-22, ahead of a home game scheduled for February 24. against Minnesota.

From then until April 29, the Leafs will only have a three-day game-free window.

Coach Sheldon Keefe wasn’t worried about the extra travel for his two stars, which he believes are worth the trip.

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“To play in the All-Star Game is an honor,” he said. “It’s a chance to showcase their skills, a great time for them, their family and the organization.

“We haven’t seen what the February schedule will look like and, to be honest, I have a feeling it won’t be as busy as we think it is. It will look like an ordinary February, given that we had such an open space in the schedule. Our players have had a lot of free time lately and a busy schedule could be a good thing for us. “

DIFFICULT TRIP TO TAVARES

The West didn’t bring out the best of John Tavares and the Leafs’ second line.
With the exception of William Nylander’s goal in Vegas – thanks to a superb extended pass from defenseman Morgan Rielly – Tavares, Nylander and whoever has been on their left wing were mostly grounded on the road trip. Tavares has now hit a season-high three games without a point as he and Nylander weren’t too keen on the No.1 power play either.

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It didn’t escape Keefe, certainly not after the two were shutout in a 2-1 loss to last-place Arizona on Wednesday.

“A little better, but still not where we need it,” Keefe said of the line, expanding on the comments he made before the game. “They had great times and good chances. We’re just looking for some consistency. Whether it’s (Ilya) Mikheyev or (Alexander) Kerfoot with them, that line hasn’t been good enough for us. They have a lot more to offer.

“We’ve come to expect them to have such a big impact that when they slide around a bit it really stands out.”

Tavares remains one of the league’s top faceoff men and just as the schedule turned to 2022 he was hailed as one of seven Leafs to average one point per game in their 231 first games in Toronto,

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“We want to be at a high standard, to be reliable and consistent,” Tavares said. “I think we definitely generated more (Wednesday) and were a lot more connected.”

Like Keefe, he thinks big.

“It’s a long season and we try not to dwell on a night when it doesn’t go so well,” he said.

PETR PUCK

Another game for Petr Mrazek and it’s still unclear what the Leafs have in their second goalie.

Two groin injuries and isolation from COVID-19 limited him to two wins, two losses and a save percentage of .882. He’s yet to steal a game, a key for any replacement who often has to play behind a tired team and vital for a team making US $ 3.8 million each over the next three years.

“I hope to stay healthy and have no more COVID,” Mrazek said after 16 saves Wednesday and a failed cross-pass check on the winner Arizona.

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Keefe agreed a stop was needed there, but left Mrazek in the hands of goaltending coach Steve Brière.

“He’s spent a lot of time with Steve, who is coaching him for the first time, and they feel comfortable with each other,” Keefe said. “Petr’s season was so disrupted there wasn’t enough time for it. It’s kind of the reset for Petr now – get in the net, get reps. “

BULK SHEETS

Thursday was a day off for the Leafs after back-to-back games, with practice scheduled for Friday in St. Louis before Saturday’s game. Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall were to join the team on Friday outside the COVID protocol. “We’ve worked hard here, it’s a chance to get away from the ice, recharge the batteries and refocus,” Tavares said. “We want to end the trip on the right note.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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