Michael Bunting returns to Maple Leafs lineup for Game 6 against Lightning

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TAMPA, Fla. — Michael Bunting returned to the Maple Leafs lineup for Game 6 of his team's first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The winger re-entered the fray Saturday after serving a suspension for an illegal check to the head on Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak in Game 1 before being made a healthy scratch Thursday.

Toronto, which led the series 3-2 after dropping a 4-2 decision in Game 5 at home, also dressed defencemen Timothy Liljegren and Erik Gustafsson, while struggling blueliner Justin Holl sat out.

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Fourth-liners Sam Lafferty and Zach Aston-Reese didn't suit up as the Leafs went with 11 forwards and seven defencemen for the first time in the series.

Bunting was banned three games and then watched from the press box as Tampa staved off elimination on the road in Game 5. Cernak has not played for Tampa since leaving Game 1.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe kept any potential lineup changes close to his vest in the lead-up to puck drop Saturday, declining to take questions on his roster following the team's optional morning skate at Amalie Arena, citing some injury-related question marks.

Game 7, if necessary, would be back in Toronto on Monday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2023.

The Canadian Press