The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a bit of a tricky situation with Nikita Zaitsev falling to injury. He'll be out for at least another four games, and it's caused a shift in the D pairs as a result.
The Athletic's James Mirtle proposes a line configuration that probably would not happen, at least not in all situations, but could and should be a great strategy moving forward - pair Morgan Rielly with Jake Gardiner on his right side.
They've proven to be great play drivers over their careers in the moments they played together, regularly posting great possession numbers. In other words, when they're together, they are on the ice for a significantly higher number of shot attempts for than they are on for against.
The issue with this pairing is that they are essentially the two puck moving D on the team, and putting them together creates an imbalance on the other lines.
This is where Mirtle gets to the idea of using this as a situational pairing. When the team is chasing a game, get them together to get some offense going. When they are protecting a lead, put Ron Hainsey back on the top line.
Gardiner is a fan of the idea.
“That'd be nice,” Gardiner said, as reported by Mirtle. “I think it's just situational for games. If we're down a goal or something, maybe he'll try it more, try to create some offensive flair, I guess.
“He's a great player. Good puck mover, skater. I think we were pretty solid (against Columbus). But I don't know if Babs wants, you know, us to be together on the defensive side. Just two offensive-minded guys.
“For sure (we have some chemistry). I'd like to try it sometime, but I guess it's not really our call.”