There will be no Mitch Marner, no Jason Spezza, no Rasmus Sandin, no Travis Dermott, and a pair of NHL debuts for Alex Steeves and Kristians Rubins for the Maple Leafs as they host the Blue. Columbus Jackets to the SBA for the first time since their decisive loss in Game 5 in August 2020 (7 p.m. EST, TSN4).
Here’s the rundown of missing players for the Leafs:
- Mitch Marner faces a shoulder injury sustained in the collision with Jake Muzzin in training that will keep him out of roster for about three to four weeks; it turned out to be worse than initially expected.
- Travis Dermott has a less serious shoulder injury; they say it is closer to everyday life than to the week.
- Rasmus SandinThe knee injury sustained in the incident with Neal Pionk on Sunday in Winnipeg will keep him from playing for about two to three weeks. There was no structural damage to the knee, but it will take a few weeks for the swelling and bruising to go away.
- Petr Mrazek is back with the Leafs after a conditioning stint with the Marlies and is set to return, but he won’t be backing behind Jack Campbell tonight.
- Jason Spezza will be suspended for a number of matches that have not yet been announced.
The 82-game NHL season rarely offers smooth sailing for a team, and alas, the last episode of adversity has arrived for the Leafs. They have just suffered consecutive defeats for the first time since the end of October and they will now be deprived of five holders (including Ilya Mikheyev) due to suspension or injury.
The decision to call the forward surely fell to Josh Ho-Sang (nine goals, 13 points in 15 games) or Alex Steeves (seven goals, 12 points in 12 games), and Steeves had the advantage of ‘be signed up for an NHL entry-level contract which allows it to be freely moved from one level to another. Ho-Sang’s opportunity might present itself before the end of the season, but wait until he’s too ready before signing him for an NHL contract – which would make him eligible for waiver to return to the AHL – is a sensible call in the hope that if / when he does arrive Ho-Sang will have a real chance to stay put. This appears to be the best option to undertake all of the development work of a remediation project only to potentially hand it over to another organization once the organizations are back in programming.
On defense, 6’5, 220-pound Latvian defenseman Kristians Rubins will make his NHL debut with Timothy Liljegren. The 23-year-old undrafted followed a similar path to Justin Holl’s until his NHL debut after starting in ECHL with AHL contracts, succeeding in the Leafs development program and rising through the ranks. of the AHL in addition to some impressive performances. for the Latvian team on the world stage. He’s a unique (older) prospect in the Leafs’ system between his size and overall mobility, but he’s had to work on his handling and puck movement at a pro level; it will be a good test for him in the limited time and space of the NHL game tonight.
Up front, with Marner and Spezza both unavailable, Wayne Simmonds will start on the wing of Auston Matthews, but as we’ve seen in Minnesota and Winnipeg, Sheldon Keefe will be active to spot a William Nylander, Ondrej Kase. or John Tavares next to Matthews. situationally. With neither Spezza nor Marner available, Kase will take on the role of bumper on the upper power play unit.
Match Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on early opportunities for Kristians Rubins and Alex Steeves:
I am excited for them. Whenever these injuries occur, an opportunity opens up for others. These are two guys that fascinate us here.
I know Rubins and trained him with the Marlies. I saw him come into the organization, work with us in the rookie tournament, then in the Growlers at the ECHL level before heading to the American League. My first training camp here – we included him in preseason games. He’s really earned the respect of the squad here – not just me, but Dean Chynoweth and the rest of the coaching staff. He did a good job with the Marlies. It’s a great opportunity for him that we are delighted to offer him.
Steeve is a guy that we were really excited to watch him all summer. He trained, skated and started his development camp very well. At the start of the rookies tournament in Traverse City, he got injured there and missed our camp as a result. A lot of our players and staff don’t know him that well, but I like him from what I’ve seen. A lot of people in the organization – Marlies’ coaches – can’t say enough positive things about the job he has done since returning from injury.
Two guys are making their NHL debuts. That’s exciting. Big to them, and also specific to Rubins, he’s a guy who went through the process here with the way we set it up several years ago with the Growlers – bringing in a guy with a contract in the AHL. and looking to develop it to get to that point now where it can help you at the NHL level. This is a very positive development.
This is a very good thing for this program. He is a certainly positive example of how he managed to overcome this.
Keefe on Jason Spezza’s probable suspension:
Obviously, not only everyone in this room, but everyone involved in the game is very familiar with Jason Spezza and his character. I would expect or hope that this will be taken into account here.
Keefe on whether the league needs to do more to protect star players like Auston Matthews in cases like the example of Pierre-Luc Dubois:
This is not necessarily specific to Auston. For the best players in the world, I think that’s a factor. These guys get a lot more attention to themselves. Therefore, there would be more opportunities for such calls.
If I’m not mistaken, Auston hasn’t shot a penalty all season, which is odd considering how much puck he has and his involvement. This stuff is worth looking into if you are involved in this.
In general, when I look at this situation, I thought it deserved an extra on the other side; Auston probably has two, the other guy has four, and off we go. The referees see it differently in this case. They have to call it what they want, and we have to go on and face it – that’s what we were doing, and then it gets worse with the Rasmus situation.
We have insisted on this point here. We have a Columbus team to prepare.
Keefe on the challenge presented by the Blue Jackets:
Lots of team speed. They will check hard and defend hard. Their special teams are very good – the shortage, in particular, makes things pretty miserable for the opposition. Watching it, they do an amazing job. They will work and compete. Things have had their ups and downs for them, but it’s a very competitive team that has beaten some really good teams.
We expect them to be very organized, disciplined and to play well as a team. It’s going to be a challenge for us to clean up our penalty kill and do a job there – go back to how we played – and try to take the advantage over the special teams, and maintain that advantage that we think. must have. Five against five, we have to do a job there.
Toronto Maple Leafs projected lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
# 20 Nick Ritchie – # 64 David Kampf – # 25 Ondrej Kase
#43 Kyle Clifford – #47 Pierre Engvall – #46 Alex Steeves
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
# 8 Jake Muzzin – # 3 Justin Holl
# 56 Kristians Rubins – # 37 Timothy Liljegren
Entry: # 36 Jack Campbell
#60 Joseph Woll
Supplements: Alex court
Injured / Exhausted: Travis Dermott, Rasmus Sandin, Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek, Mitch Marner, Jason Spezza
Columbus Blue Jackets projected lines
# 14 Gustav Nyquist – # 38 Boone Jenner – # 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
#16 Max Domi – #96 Jack Roslovic – #93 Jakub Voracek
#15 Gregory Hofmann – #34 Cole Sillinger – #17 Justin Danforth
#50 Eric Robinson – #7 Sean Kuraly – #42 Alex Texier
#8 Zach Werenski – #22 Jake Bean
#44 Vladislav Gavrikov – #2 Andrew Peeke
#53 Gabriel Carlsson – #27 Adam Boqvist
Starter: # 90 Elvis Merzlikins
# 40 Daniil Tarasov
Injured / Exhausted: Patrik Laine, Dean Kukan, Emil Bemstrom, Joonas Korpisalo