Spezza, Holl to make series debut for Leafs; Simmonds, Liljegren scratched for Game 3

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TAMPA, Fla. — Jason Spezza will make his series debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in Game 3 of their first-round playoff matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 38-year-old forward sat out the first two contests as a healthy scratch after suiting up 71 times in the regular season.

Spezza, who registered 12 goals and 13 assists in 2021-22, skated on the fourth line at the morning skate with Colin Blackwell and Pierre Engvall.

Leafs defenceman Justin Holl is also set to draw in after sitting out Monday's 5-0 victory and Wednesday's 5-3 loss in Toronto. He replaces Timothy Liljegren on the third pair with Mark Giordano.

Toronto winger Kyle Clifford is available after serving a one-game suspension for boarding on Tampa's Ross Colton in the opener, but is projected to be scratched along with Wayne Simmonds.

The hard-nosed forward took two undisciplined penalties that led to a pair of power-play goals against in Game 2 against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

"I don't think words can describe how hard it is to watch a game when you're a player," Spezza said after the morning skate. "It's difficult, but it's part of the process of being on a team.

"We have a great team here. We're gonna need to use our depth throughout playoffs, but as a player, it's one of the hardest things you do."

Spezza, who hasn't played in the playoffs in front of a full house since he was a member of the Dallas Stars in 2019, has 28 goals and 75 points in 92 career post-season contests.

"It's best time of year to play hockey," he said. "I can bring some enthusiasm to the game today and have some poise, and also hopefully help power play and just kind of get the line in good order."

Leafs winger Ondrej Kase (personal) wasn't on the ice this morning, but is expected to dress. The 26-year-old returned from a concussion at the start of the playoffs after sitting out the last 20 games of the regular season.

Game 4 of the series goes Sunday back at Amalie Arena.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2022.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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