Coach Sheldon Keefe announced on Wednesday that goaltender Frederik Andersen, with a knee injury since March 20, will grant a conditioning loan to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies and play half of their game against Manitoba on Thursday. .
Meanwhile, Nick Foligno was absent from Toronto training on Wednesday after leaving Monday’s game with an upper-body injury. He won’t dress for the Leafs on Thursday against Montreal and will likely miss Saturday’s tilt as well.
Forwards Zach Hyman (MCL) and Riley Nash (knee) are also expected to be out for the remaining games this week. Both players were in training on Wednesday for the first time since getting injured, but wore non-contact sweaters. Keefe doesn’t believe either will be in the lineup until next Tuesday against Ottawa at the earliest.
Staying patient has been key to treating injuries in Toronto all season. This was especially true for Andersen, who had a wide lead in his AHL loan.
“Today was an important day for him,” Keefe said of Andersen. “It was his second full training session with us, and everything indicates that the day went well and that he is feeling good. [Going to the Marlies] is just a good way for him to get back to it and then things will be reassessed from there.
Andersen has not been in an AHL game since 2013-14. He was then part of the Anaheim Ducks organization and supported the Norfolk Admirals in four games before qualifying full time in the NHL the following season.
Andersen is currently on the Long-Term Injury Reserve and may stay there for an AHL loan of up to six days or three games.
He hasn’t started a game for Toronto since March 19, a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames. It was the latest in a string of disappointing results for Andersen, who looked unlike him since missing four games with a lower body injury in late February.
That loss to Calgary put Andersen at 2-5-1 after the illness, and the Leafs decided to shut it down until the knee issue was completely resolved.
Now that Andersen appears to be headed in the right direction, his teammates are hoping to see him again for one of his last four regular season games.
“He’s an important part of our team and he will be an important part of our team,” said Justin Holl, who also returned to practice on Wednesday after missing Monday’s game with a facial injury. “So the sooner we can get it back up and running, the better for us. All this encourages us to see [him at practice]. »
The Leafs are counting on Foligno to play an important role in their post-season plans. Toronto acquired Foligno in a trade with Columbus last month and he’s made an almost seamless transition into the roster, totaling four assists in five games.
The veteran winger was forced to leave in the second period of Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal, questioning his availability for the rest of the week.
Still, Keefe is confident Foligno won’t miss a beat with the Leafs when he returns. The challenge now is to adjust the plane without him for a spell.
“In terms of his own game and how he feels with our team and his adjustments, I think he’s already passed that point and we’re in a good position there,” Keefe said.
“I was looking to shake things up and try it out in different places. [The injury] is going to have an impact on my ability to do this. It also has a trickle-down effect on other lines and coupled with not having [Hyman], this changes our range considerably. But I’m just going to take it one day at a time and get Foligno back to full health as quickly as possible. “
Hyman had not practiced with the team since suffering an MCL sprain on April 18. After going through a few skating exercises at the start, Hyman mostly observed Wednesday’s session. But his presence still had an impact, as did having Nash with the group.
Nash was acquired by Toronto from Columbus on April 10, in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The trade came just days after Nash sprained his knee and he was set to miss at least four to six weeks of rehabilitation from the injury.
Wednesday was Nash’s first chance to step onto the ice with all of his new teammates. Like Hyman, he was more of an observer than a participant, but Keefe made sure to officially greet the newcomer with a series of pre-workout patters.
“We want to be as healthy as possible,” said John Tavares. “It was Nash’s first day with the guys, and we want him to feel good and be more of the squad, and we know how important Hyman is to our team. It was great to see them progress and come closer [to returning]. We really love our team when we have a full line.
Until everyone has regained their strength, Keefe will continue to tinker. He had Stefan Noesen, another commercially expiring acquisition, in third row with Alex Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev in Wednesday practice, but there’s no guarantee he’ll make his Leafs debut in Thursday’s game.
Keefe said there are still decisions to be made based on how players feel in the morning.
Amidst all of this uncertainty, there’s the assurance that a playoffs are looming. Toronto has yet to lock up the North Division seed and Keefe’s main concern now is keeping his team from thinking too far.
“All we can do is stay focused [on the present], ” he said. “But of course it’s in the minds of the players, and in the minds of the coach for that matter, that you’re at this point where you want the playoffs to start, and they won’t. So we just have to [approach it as] every day is a new day and gives us the opportunity to keep improving, and we need to focus on that.