In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news emerging from the team as it prepares to play tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. I also want to take some time to congratulate Patrick Marleau for breaking Gordie Howe’s amazing record for NHL games played.
Item One: Zach Hyman Is Out At Least Two Weeks
There’s some good news after the initial bad news. The bad news is that Zach Hyman’s ACL injury will keep him out at least two weeks. The good news – sort of – is that it’s only a sprained MCL. That means no surgery and no extended rehab. Maple Leafs fans recall that Hyman had to have surgery to repair an ACL – this very same knee – in 2019 and missed quite a bit of the early part of the season.
Hyman is one-of-a-kind player, and the Maple Leafs would miss him dearly if he were out for an extended length of time. The 28-year-old is versatile enough that head coach Sheldon Keefe can slot him on any line and he makes every other line-mate better for his presence.
Hyman’s been having an incredible season and already has scored 15 goals and 18 assists (for 33 points) in 43 games. That two-week timeline means that Hyman will return to the ice with fewer than 10 games left in the regular season.
The perpetrator of Sunday’s knee-to-knee hit that caused the injury was the Vancouver Canucks’ defenseman Alexander Edler who, after a hearing, was suspended for two-games.
Item Two: There’s Been a Frederik Andersen Sighting
In a bit of good injury news, Frederik Andersen’s lower-body injury has improved enough so that he took the ice with his teammates on Monday at the end of practice and even took some shots. It’s great news that he’s making progress from his injury, but it’s obviously too early to tell when he’ll be able to play again.
Item Three: Nick Foligno Will Join His New Teammates on Wednesday in Winnipeg
The Maple Leafs acquired Nick Foligno on April 11 from the Columbus Blue Jackets and he’s been going through his required seven-day quarantine since. Fortunately, with Hyman out for two weeks, Foligno offers an immediate option for a replacement. The plan is for him to join his Maple Leafs’ teammates in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
This means that Foligno won’t be able to play tonight against the Canucks. However, if his upper-body injury has healed (and it didn’t seem too serious) and he feels “up to game speed” after quarantining, he’s likely to play in Thursday night’s game against the Jets. He hasn’t been much of a scorer this season (with only seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 42 games), but he can still dig pucks out of scrums with the best of them. He plays selflessly and with heart.
During a recent episode of “The Chirp with Daren Millard,” Foligno was quoted as saying that “It will be nice to probably have a practice but I rather … let’s go. I’m here to play for them and get this thing going, so I probably prefer to jump right into the door.”
He also noted that it will the first time he’s faced his former teammate Pierre-Luc Dubois who was traded from the Blue Jackets to the Jets in late January. Foligno noted that “We’ll face off against each other for the first time, so the familiar face across the way.”
Item Four: Ilya Mikheyev Is Questionable for Tonight’s Game
Ilya Mikheyev suffered an undisclosed injury during practice yesterday and is questionable for tonight’s game against the Canucks. He left Monday’s practice early and coach Keefe had no answer about the specific injury problem. Mikheyev has been a demon on the penalty kill and has also added some secondary scoring with six goals and 15 points in 45 games this year.
Item Five: William Nylander’s Might Not Play Tonight
The status of William Nylander’s suiting up for tonight’s game against the Canucks is iffy to say the least. Apparently, because Nylander was late for a team meeting, coach Keefe had decided to bench the young Swede. However, when Mikheyev was injured at practice on Monday, Nylander took off the team’s grey taxi squad jersey and was moved to his regular line.
As a result, it’s unclear whether he’ll play or not. Keefe noted that his situation would be reassessed before Tuesday’s game. He was initially going to be scratched, but that might be up-in-the-air depending upon whether Mikheyev might or might not play. Nylander’s been hot lately and now has 14 goals and 18 assists (for 32 points) in 40 games this season.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
If I read the schedule correctly, after the Canucks’ game tonight the Maple Leafs play a back-to-back-to-back against the Jets on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I can’t recall three games in three days happening in my time. That will be interesting for both teams.
Just a note on the amazing career of former Maple Leafs’ player Patrick Marleau who last night passed “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe’s “previously-unbreakable” record for all-time NHL games played. It was Marleau’s 1,768th NHL game on Monday against the Vegas Golden Knights. The 41-year-old Marleau’s first NHL game was on Oct. 1, 1997, against the Edmonton Oilers.
After the game in a classy move by the Golden Knights, Marleau was congratulated by every Golden Knights’ player – as if it were the end of a playoff series. Players on both teams offered Marleau stick taps. How fortunate that Marleau’s family was in attendance for the first time this season, as well.
Marleau has been one of my favorite Maple Leafs’ players, and I’ve written about him often. I especially appreciate the impact he’s had on mentoring both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Congratulations to Marleau from a huge fan – me.