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Maple Leafs in Campbell or bust mode as he faces former team and mentor

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TORONTO –Jack Campbell is a heart-on-his-sleeve guy under the most routine circumstances.

If you saw him give the mailman a high-five or feed his Red Lobster leftovers to a stray dog, would you be surprised?

So we can only imagine the emotions he’ll feel Monday night on Sportsnet staring down 200 feet at his mentor, friend and former teammate, Jonathan Quick.

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“That guy means the world to me,” Campbell said Sunday. “I used to watch video of him in Dallas, just studying his game, and I went to Connecticut one summer to train just because he was out there. That was before I ever met him.

“Just the ultimate teammate, ultimate guy to look up to. And we still are boys. We text each other a lot, and I can’t say enough good things about Quickie. He’s a legend, and it’d be pretty awesome to play him.”

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Well, it’s confirmed: Luke Skywalker gets a crack at Obi-Wan Kenobi at Scotiabank Arena, in a duel between two squads riding win streaks of at least four games.

Quick will be in the pipes for L.A. for the Kings’ first Toronto visit since Campbell (plus rental forward Kyle Clifford) was traded here for Trevor Moore and two third-round picks in February 2020.

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Of course, Campbell — set to make a league-leading 11th appearance — gets the start for the Leafs.

He’s the only healthy bona fide NHL goaltender they have available.

Petr Mrazek reinjured his groin and has been set back four weeks.

The pressure all falls on Campbell (6-2-1, .938 save percentage) to not only make big saves but keep healthy for what is setting up to be a hectic November.

This is not going according to plan.

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Trust in third-stringer Michael Hutchinson is wearing thin, and neither prospect Joseph Woll nor Swedish import Erik Källgren has played a single minute in an NHL crease.

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“We like the idea of having the tandem and guys that can work together and we can share that workload a little bit better,” Sheldon Keefe conceded.

“But at the same time, Jack’s in a groove right now. He’s rolling. It’s a positive for him that he can just keep at it and knows he’ll be playing every day.”

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When there is only one option, you have no choice but to spin positive.

Because Campbell is now set to assume a Frederik Andersen-like share of the starts (i.e., everything except back-to-backs), the affable workaholic has been skipping practices with the understanding that breaks can be more important than fine-tuning.

“I’ve learned that, as I’ve gotten older, you got to rest when it’s time,” Campbell explained. “Coach has done a great job of balancing that workload for me. I appreciate everyone looking out for myself and my body.”

And his mind.

Notoriously hard on himself, Campbell never allows blame to rebounds off his pads. He swallows it every time.

The goalie has sought advice of peak performance coach Greg Harden to improve his mental approach to arguably the most intense position in team sports.

Campbell says he’s been kinder to himself, and he’s eased up on the public self-flagellation in his post-game chats with the media.

“Has he to you guys?” Jake Muzzin, another former L.A. King, smiled Monday. “Because every goal that goes in is his fault, apparently — [when he speaks] to us.

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“He’s a tough critic on himself, but we’re there to remind him that he’s not alone. There’s a lot of guys in front of him. Mistakes are made. He’s been playing great — and we’re going to need him to continue playing great.”

That would be an understatement.

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With approximately 14 games to play until Mrazek’s return, it’s imperative Campbell goes easy on himself — because the schedule will not.

“It’s a good quality in that he judges his game harshly and expects a lot out of himself, but as teammates, you remind him it’s a team game,” Jason Spezza said.

“He’s handled it all in stride and found a good routine. It’s demanding. You don’t see a lot of guys carry the workload the way he’s been carrying it now in the league. It speaks to his dedication to get himself ready day in and day out.”

One-Timers: Riding a five-game win streak, the Maple Leafs will roll the same lineup that defeat Boston Saturday. This means Justin Holl will be healthy-scratched for a fifth consecutive game as Timothy Liljegren continues to impress…. Toronto recalled forwards Joey Anderson and Kirill Semyonov from the Marlies. Acquired in a 2020 trade with the Devils that sent Andreas Johnsson the other way, Anderson has played just one game for the Leafs. The undrafted Semyonov, a 27-year-old KHL import, impressed in camp and has nine points through his first nine AHL games…. Woll will back up Campbell and is getting NHL pay this week. That said, we’d be surprised if he gets the start in this weekend’s back-to-back over Michael Hutchinson and Källgren.





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