Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Campbell, Lyubushkin, Kerfoot & Abruzzese

The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Philadelphia Flyers tonight on the road. The Maple Leafs are looking for their fourth victory, and the Flyers were eliminated from the playoffs after they lost to the Minnesota Wild Tuesday. 

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What makes this game interesting is that Maple Leafs’ fans will see the return of goalie Jack Campbell, who’s been deemed healthy enough to play. His rib injuries had kept him out since March 8. During that time, Petr Mrazek finally found his game, but was also injured – a groin again – and he will be out until the playoffs. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Campbell Better Because of Adversity

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the injury situation and some of the moves the team has made to compensate. Although the team has played well overall, it would be a boost to their fortunes if Campbell could return to the form he had when he started the 2021-22 season.

Item One: Jack Campbell Is Finally Ready to Play

Finally, goalie Jack Campbell’s ribs are sufficiently healed and he’ll start tonight in goal against the Flyers. According to a David Alter tweet, Campbell declared himself ready after Friday’s practice. It didn’t take Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe long to confirm that Campbell would get his chance.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As noted, it will be Campbell’s first game minutes since early March because of the injury. On the season over 40 games played, he’s posted a 24-9-4 record, a goals-against-average of 2.65, and a save percentage of .914. With Mrazek recently injured, the timing could not be better.

Item Two: Ilya Lyubushkin Looks to Be Returning As Well

Ilya Lyubushkin, who suffered a head injury against the Boston Bruins when he was sucker-punched by Taylor Hall, could be back in tonight’s lineup against the Flyers. In yesterday’s practice, he skated with his regular defensive partner Morgan Rielly and after the practice reported that he felt pretty good. However, he did note that his neck was a little sore after being punched.

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Although any injury can be serious, it’s good that the problem was not concussion-related. Rather, it was a recurring neck injury. Lyubushkin has suffered neck problems in the past. 

Ilya Lyubushkin Arizona Coyotes
Ilya Lyubushkin, when he was with the Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Two moves suggest that Lyubushkin will likely play tonight. First, he was a regular participant in practice; second, the organization sent Mac Hollowell and Filip Kral back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies yesterday.

Item Three: Nick Abruzzese Will Make His First NHL Start Tonight

Tonight’s game will also be interesting because Maple Leafs’ fans will get a chance to take a look at prospect Nick Abruzzese who will make his NHL debut. Abruzzese is scheduled to play on the fourth line with everyone’s mentor Jason Spezza. 

Related: Ottawa Senators’ Brady Tkachuk: Building Block for the Future

Abruzzese is yet another Harvard University player. He was signed by the Maple Leafs just last week to a two-year, entry-level contract. During his NCAA season, he scored nine goals and added 24 assists (for 33 points) in 28 games. Although it was only his sophomore season, his days as a collegiate player are over. 

Item Four: Alex Kerfoot Only Took a Rest Day

Alex Kerfoot will draw back into the lineup tonight. He wasn’t in practice yesterday because he was given a maintenance day. Kerfoot is in the middle of a career season offensively. During the 2021-22 regular season thus far, he’s totalled 11 goals and 35 assists (for 46 points)  in 67 games. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

A look at the Atlantic Division standings shows that all four teams battling for first place have now played 67 games. It wasn’t long ago that the Maple Leafs had played five and six games fewer games than the rest of the Division and had to play a tough schedule to make those games up. Well, they’ve made them up. And, even with their injury situation (especially in goal), they’ve hung in there.

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, leads the Atlantic Division leaders the Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

True, the Maple Leafs have a tough schedule in April with 15 games to play. So do the other four teams in the race – the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Boston Bruins.  At this time of the season, there are no easy opponents. Everybody is playing for something.  

Teams in the playoffs are there because they’re good teams. They’re battling for home-ice advantage and want to go into the playoffs on a positive note.  

Other teams are battling for their playoff lives, teams like the Winnipeg Jets feel that they have to win every game just to make the postseason.

Related: Maple Leafs Seeing More Maturity & Leadership From Matthews

Then there are the teams like the Flyers who are out of the playoffs. These teams have no pressure to win, but every player on those teams is fighting for a job or a contract.  

It should be interesting and fun to watch over the remainder of the season.

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