OTTAWA SENATORS (Last season: 29-47-6) at TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (Last season: 46-28-8)

Wednesday, 7 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

TV: Sportsnet, Radio: 1050 AM (Toronto), TSN 1200 (Ottawa)

 

THE BIG MATCHUP

Auston Matthews vs. Ron Hainsey

Prior to a pre-season game between the Maple Leafs and Senators a couple of weeks ago, Ron Hainsey was asked about the keys to limiting players such as Auston Matthews, his former teammate. Hainsey’s reply:  “Keep them out of your zone with possession as much as possible.” Hainsey will get to try to apply that in the season opener, though knows the task won’t be easy. In 12 career games against Ottawa, Matthews has put the puck in the net 10 times.

 

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

Set the tone
Considering the Maple Leafs should be Stanley Cup contenders and the Senators barely will be regular-season pretenders, it’s on the Leafs to control the game from the outset, no matter what the visitors might bring. “His team is prepared, they are playing hard, they are playing well,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said of Sens coach D.J. Smith, his former assistant. We say, big deal. The Leafs are better. Demonstrate as much from the opening faceoff. Don’t have members of Leafs Nation pondering their life choices after Game 1.

MM good
Based on salary — not annual average value — Mitch Marner will be the highest-paid player in the NHL this season at $16 million US. Next is Auston Matthews, tied with teammate John Tavares (likely to be named captain on Wednesday) at $15.9 million. As such, each of the three have the potential, whether it’s his own or with one of the others, to take control. Babcock keeps talking about how Matthews and Marner are better this year (not that we disagree) and there shouldn’t be much of an issue on getting past challenges against Ottawa.

PK OK?
The Leafs get a first look at their revamped penalty-killing units. The top three penalty killers in Toronto last season based on ice time — Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey and Connor Brown — now are on the other side in the Battle of Ontario. “Biggest change is in the penalty killing area,” Babcock said. “Penalty kill is a huge part of it. You can play great and suddenly it’s in your net. That’s our biggest focus of making sure we are up to speed.” Jake Muzzin, Martin Marincin, Marner, and Trevor Moore are among those who will get more PK time.

Brown’s big chance
After scoring 20 goals as a rookie three seasons ago, Brown got lost in the shuffle in Toronto, scoring 22 goals in the past two seasons combined. The Toronto native is going to be front and centre in the nation’s capital, and has the talent to produce north of 20 goals. We wouldn’t suggest Brown will singlehandedly burn the Leafs, but you can bet he will have some fire after being traded to Ottawa in the off-season.

Advanced chemistry
With more than one third of the Leafs roster requiring name tags, this group could need some time to gel, but to a man, they have liked how the group progressed through camp and the pre-season. Having said that, we’re curious to see what comes from the third line. Alex Kerfoot didn’t exactly set camp on fire, while Ilya Mikheyev continues to get his feet wet. Moore, however, appears primed for a larger role after scoring three goals during the pre-season.

 

MAPLE LEAFS LINES

LW-C-RW

Kasperi Kapanen-John Tavares-Mitch Marner

Andreas Johnsson-Auston Matthews-William Nylander

Ilya Mikheyev-Alex Kerfoot-Trevor Moore

Dmytro Timashov-Jason Spezza-Frederik Gauthier

Defence pairs

Morgan Rielly-Cody Ceci

Jake Muzzin-Tyson Barrie

Rasmus Sandin-Martin Marincin

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Michael Hutchinson

 

SENATORS LINES

LW-C-RW

Brady Tkachuk-Colin White-Connor Brown

Anthony Duclair-Chris Tierney-Bobby Ryan

Tyler Ennis-Artem Anisimov-Drake Batherson

Filip Chlapik-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Scott Sabourin

Defence pairs

Thomas Chabot-Nikita Zaitsev

Erik Brannstrom-Ron Hainsey

Mark Borowiecki-Dylan DeMelo

Goaltenders

Craig Anderson

Anders Nilsson

 

INJURIES

Senators — D Christian Wolanin (shoulder), LW Rudolf Balcers (leg).

Maple Leafs — D Travis Dermott (shoulder), LW Zach Hyman (knee).

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play (2018-19)

Senators: 20.4% (13th)

Maple Leafs: 21.8% (8th)

Penalty kill (2018-19)

Senators: 79.2% (23rd)

Maple Leafs: 79.9% (18th)

 

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