Date with the Panthers could give the Maple Leafs “extra motivation.”

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The duel with the Florida Panthers doesn’t keep the Maple Leafs up at night.

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Toronto begins a season-long five-game road trip Thursday in Sunrise, Florida. This marks the Leafs’ first game against the Panthers since the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Leafs fell poorly in five games.

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

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

Ilya Samsonov will take the starting position in goal for the Panthers’ home opener. Florida, which was aiming to reach 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 the mouth,” captain John Tavares said of the loss to Florida in the playoffs. “Disappointing from our point of view. But it’s a new season, a new challenge, also for them, a team in our division.

“These points are always valuable and crucial.”

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