Babcock makes puzzling lineup decision ahead of pivotal Game 3 against Bruins

What the…!? Anyone understand Babcock’s strategy on this one?

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In a surprising development this morning, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has inexplicably promoted fourth line centre Tomas Plekanec to the second line position between wingers Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner in advance of tonight's pivotal Game 3 matchup against the Boston Bruins.

Plekanec has not exactly endeared himself to the Leafs faithful since being acquired from the rival Montreal Canadiens prior to the NHL’s 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. The 35 year old veteran has gone goalless in 19 games with the Leafs, earning just two assists since being acquired along with prospect Kyle Baun for Rinat Valiev, forward Kerby Rychel and a 2018 second-round draft pick.

Regular scratch Dominic Moore draws into the lineup to take Plekanec’s fourth line position, while usual second line centre Nazem Kadri remains out of the lineup due to a three game suspension. Veteran winger Leo Komarov is also expected to miss tonight’s game due to a lower body injury.

Here are the forward lines from this morning’s skate, courtesy of TSN reporter Mark Masters:

For those not on Twitter, here’s how thing shake down:

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Tomas Plekanec - Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Andreas Johnsson - Dominic Moore - Kasperi Kapanen

On the blue line, no changes from games one and two:

Again, here’s how it shakes down:

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Roman Polak

Of course, Frederik Andersen gets the start in goal. 

As for the Bruins, it looks like they'll finally get injured forward Riley Nash back for tonight's game. Nash has been a crucial player for the Bruins this season, playing third line centre minutes behind established stars Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy officially confirmed yesterday afternoon that Nash would make his series debut tonight in Toronto. “For the most part, just a couple of bumps and bruises. Riley Nash is looking good, so he will be a guy that will go into the lineup tomorrow,” said Cassidy. 

For the full video, click the link below:

Puck drop is 7pm at the Air Canada Centre.