Red-hot Oilers type of challenge Maple Leafs have been waiting for

The trip west to Edmonton required a quick layover in the trainer’s room.

That’s where Auston Matthews, Joe Thornton, Jake Muzzin, Frederik Andersen and other key members of the Toronto Maple Leafs had to spend time before heading out on a five-games-in-eight-days roadie featuring a tasty mini-series against the Oilers.

On the surface it didn’t look like an ideal way to prepare for the scorching-hot team challenging their North Division supremacy, but there’s an argument to be made that the opposite is in fact true.

Fundamentally, this is the kind of opportunity the Leafs have been waiting for. The grind is real right now, both with the injuries and the fact many of them probably won’t even step outside from the moment they check into the JW Marriott until they’re boarding a bus to the airport late Wednesday night after playing the Oilers for a third straight time.

Their reward?

A game in Vancouver the very next night.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Muzzin. “This whole season has been different.”

It’s the kind of stretch a dominant regular season team finds a way to navigate with only limited damage. And the Leafs, who’ve roared out of the gates with a 15-4-2 start, are setting the internal bar at dominance.

They’ve spoken with respect in the past about the way a former Atlantic Division foe like the Boston Bruins always seemed to be winning or challenging for the Presidents’…

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