Date with Florida Panthers could provide Maple Leafs with 'extra motivation'

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Squaring off with the Florida Panthers isn’t keeping the Maple Leafs up at night.

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A season-long five-game trip for Toronto starts in Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday, marking the Leafs’ first game against the Panthers since the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, when the Leafs bowed out weakly in five games. 

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“I think anytime you get to play a team again, you want to … I think it just doesn’t matter,” Leafs forward Mitch Marner said. “You want to play your best against any team. 

“Maybe there’s some extra motivation there, especially with what happened last year, but we want to play our best hockey on this road trip and really get the ball rolling and play Leafs hockey.”

Ilya Samsonov will get the start in goal in the Panthers’ home opener. Florida, which had the resolve to advance to the Cup final in June where it lost to Vegas in five games, has won one of its first three games.

“It’s a sour taste in your mouth,” captain John Tavares said of losing to Florida in the playoffs. “Disappointing from our standpoint. But it’s a new season, a new challenge, for them as well, a team within our division.

“These points are always valuable and crucial.”

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Originally posted 2023-10-18 20:06:50.