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Maple Leafs coach Keefe says rookie Knies has earned spot in lineup for Game 5

With forward Michael Bunting returning from his suspension, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday he will use the next couple days to choose his lineup for Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But one thing’s for certain, Matthew Knies will not be coming out of the lineup on Thursday, Keefe said, adding that the rookie winger has earned a spot with the way he’s played.

Knies, 20, has one assist, four shots, nine hits and is plus-2 in three games since entering the Maple Leafs lineup these playoffs. Toronto has won all three games.

Knies joined the Maple Leafs out of the University of Minnesota on an entry-level deal at the end of the regular season.

Bunting was suspended for Games 2, 3 and 4 of the first-round series for an illegal check to the head of Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak in Game 1.

The Maple Leafs have a 3-1 series lead after back-to-back comeback wins in Games 3 and 4, and could advance to the second round with a win on Thursday in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press