As the Toronto Maple Leafs head towards a game this evening with the Vancouver Canucks, fans should expect a bit of a different lineup. Yesterday the team was rocked with the news that four of its players were assigned to the NHL’s protocols for COVID-19 after test results. All four, as I understand it, will have to produce two negative COVID-19 tests in a row before they are able to rejoin the team. Then, only if symptoms allow it.
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In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share who those four players are. Then, I’ll give the news of players who will come in as replacements. There’s also some regular news to share as well.
Item One: Jack Campbell will start on Saturday against Vancouver.
In Jack Campbell’s last start against the Edmonton Oilers, he seemed to shake off any issues he’s had recently about letting goals behind him. In Edmonton on Tuesday, he faced 36 shots on the net and allowed only one goal as the team won by a 5-1 score.
In the season over 23 games played, Campbell has a record of 15-5-2, a great goals-against-average of 1.94, and a great save percentage of .937. Although it’s likely that backup goalie Petr Mrazek would play in Sunday night’s second game of a back-to-back against the Seattle Kraken, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that the decision hasn’t been finalized.
Item Two: Four Maple Leafs’ Players Under NHL COVID-19 Protocols
Now the bad news for the team. Four Maple Leafs’ players – Jason Spezza, John Tavares, Alex Kerfoot, and Wayne Simmonds – all have joined the list of NHL players entering the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The tests were apparently done on Thursday and the results were announced yesterday. As a result, for precautionary reasons, Friday’s practice was called off.
With Spezza, Tavares, Kerfoot, and Simmonds out of action, until they can produce two negative results in a row, the team is down four forwards. Obviously, coach Keefe will have to scramble to create some lineup magic. Who will center the team’s second line is the biggest question facing the coach.
Item Three: Projected Maple Leafs’ Line Combinations
In this morning’s Daily Faceoff, the Athletics’ Jonas Siegel suggested that the line combinations would be:
First Line: Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Ondrej Kase
Second Line: Ilya Mikheyev – Pierre Engvall – William Nylander
Third Line: Nick Ritchie – David Kampf – Brett Seney
Fourth Line: Kyle Clifford – Alex Steeves – Carl Dahlstrom
[Note that Dahlstrom usually plays defense, so that’s an interesting move on the Maple Leafs’ part. Ritchie and Seney are listed as game-time decisions.]
Item Four: Maple Leafs Recall Alex Steeves from the Marlies
As a replacement for one of the team’s forwards under the NHL protocol, the Maple Leafs have recalled Alex Steeves (who’s usually a winger) from the Toronto Marlies. Steeves started his first NHL game during his last call-up, and he registered an assist in the three games he’s played. With the Marlies, he has scored seven goals and five assists (for 12 points) in 12 AHL games.
Item Five: Maple Leafs Recall Defenseman Carl Dahlstrom from the Marlies
The Maple Leafs also called up defenseman Carl Dahlstrom from their Marlies affiliate. As noted, it’s interesting that Dahlstrom is penciled in as the fourth-line’s right-winger. If he plays, and it looks as if he will, it will be his NHL game since the 2019-20 season when he played in 15 games with the Winnipeg Jets.
Item Six: Nick Ritchie Comes Back at a Good Time
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
What an interesting situation the pandemic has caused for all of us. For the immediate future, the Maple Leafs will be forced to be creative with team decisions to piece together a lineup of healthy bodies.
Should the game be played, it should be an interesting one. It seems like the stuff of movies, which now seems to be everyday life in the NHL these days. What does it say about the Winter Olympics?
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The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf