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The Toronto Maple Leafs, the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, have the competitive edge going into the Stanley Cup qualifying round against the Columbus Blue Jackets with one of the most loaded offenses in the league.

New coach Sheldon Keefe took over for Mike Babcock in November and changed the dynamics of the team quickly, going 15-4-1 in his first 20 games, recording the best start of any coach in the franchise’s history.

Forward Auston Matthews flourished under the new system, ranking third in the league in goals, just one shy of leaders David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin. John Tavares’ production slowed this season compared to his first in Toronto but as team captain, he’s sure to step up in the qualifying round.

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QUICKLOOK

Division: Atlantic (3rd)

Record: 35-26-9

Coach: Sheldon Keefe

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ROSTER

Forwards: 

Kyle Clifford, Pierre Engvall, Frederik Gauthier, Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Alexander Kerfoot, Denis Malgin, Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews, Ilya Mikheyev, William Nylander, Nic Petan, Nicholas Robertson, Jason Spezza, John Tavares

Defensemen: 

Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren, Martin Marincin, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, Calle Rosen, Rasmus Sandin

Goaltenders: 

Frederik Andersen, Jack Campbell, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Joseph Woll

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SCHEDULE 

The Maple Leafs will compete in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers beginning on Aug. 1 when they take on the Blue Jackets in a best of five series.

Game 1: Sunday, Aug. 2, 8 p.m.

Game 2: Tuesday, Aug. 4, 4 p.m.

Game 3: Thursday, Aug. 6, TBD

Game 4 (if needed): Friday, Aug. 7, TBD

Game 5 (if needed): Sunday, Aug. 9, TBD

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.

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Stars, Knights Players Kneel in Support of Social Justice

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Players from the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars knelt on the ice before their game Monday to support Black Lives Matter and other social causes.

Dallas forward Tyler Sequin and Jason Dickinson knelt alongside Vegas forward Ryan Reaves and goaltender Robin Lehner during the American and Canadian national anthems prior to their round-robin playoff game.

Minnesota’s Matt Dumba on Saturday became the first NHL player to kneel during the U.S. anthem, after he made a speech before a game between Edmonton and Chicago. He knelt at center ice while fellow Black players Malcolm Subban of Chicago and Darnell Nurse of Edmonton each stood with a hand on one of his shoulders.

Dumba's Wild faced Vancouver the following night, and he raised his right fist in the air during the U.S. and Canadian anthems.

Several teams have stood together during the U.S. and Canadian anthems, with some players locking arms to show solidarity.

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