Michael Bunting has been suspended three games by the NHL Department of Player Safety and will not play for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7 pm ET; ESPN, CBC , SN, TVAS, BSSUN).
The Maple Leafs forward was disciplined for an illegal head check and interference against the Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak in a 7-3 loss in Game 1 on Tuesday.
The incident occurred at 15:40 of the second period. Bunting was assessed a five-minute match penalty for an illegal head check. The Lightning scored two goals on the ensuing power play, through the forward Corey Perry and center Brayden Pointto take a 6-2 lead.
Cernak left the game and did not return; Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday that the defenseman will not play in Game 2.
The Maple Leafs have lost in the first round in each of the past six seasons, including a seven-game loss to Tampa Bay last season despite holding a 3-2 series lead. Toronto hasn’t won a Stanley Cup Playoffs series since 2004, and its last championship came in 1967.
With Bunting unavailable, Calle Jarnkrok he was replaced on the left wing in a line with the center Austin Matthews and right wing Mitchell Marner at Wednesday’s practice.
Ryan O’Reilly is the center in a line with the left wing Matthew Knieswho could make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in Game 2, and right wing Noel Acciari. John Tavareswho played left wing in Game 1 on a line with O’Reilly and right wing William Nylandermove to the center between the left wing Alexander Kerfoot and Nylander.
The fourth center line David Kampf between the left wings Zach Aston-Reese and right wing Sam Lafferty remained the same.
“Our bottom-six (forwards) didn’t have a good day yesterday, so there’s that, but I also haven’t made any lineup decisions on what we’re going to look like tomorrow,” Keefe said Wednesday. “I want to get John back in some reps in the middle; he hasn’t been out all week. If we’re going to switch things around, I want him to be comfortable there. But I haven’t made any final decisions yet, so I’ll do don’t read too much into how we look now.”
Knies, a second-round pick (No. 57) of the Maple Leafs in the 2021 NHL Draft, had one assist in three regular-season games after signing with Toronto following the conclusion of his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota.
“Tampa is a competitive team, the playoffs are a different animal, more physical and faster,” Knies said of what he learned watching Game 1. “Special teams is important, staying disciplined things and staying outside the box was a big important lesson for this group.
“That would be awesome (to play in Game 2). It’s every kid’s dream to play in the playoffs and play for the Stanley Cup, so I’m super happy and excited to be a part of it.”
O’Reilly said he has been very impressed with Knies, who has 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 40 games with the University of Minnesota this season, since joining the Maple Leafs on April 9.
“He’s a great kid, works hard, and you can see his skill set is incredible, the way he handles the puck and the plays he makes out there, it’s going to be exciting to play with him,” O’Reilly said. “Hopefully we can build a lot and be a line that is hard to play but hopefully can contribute offensively. I’ve been very impressed with him. You can tell he’s going to have a long NHL career.”
Keefe confirmed that Ilya Samsonovwho allowed six goals on 29 shots before being pulled late in the second period, will start for Toronto in Game 2. Joseph Woll stopped four of five shots in the third period Tuesday.
NHL.com independent correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report