Don’t look now, but the Ottawa Senators are coming and the Toronto Maple Leafs might be in for a battle in tonight’s game.
First, the Senators have played the Maple Leafs well this season. Although Ottawa sits in last place in the North Division, the two teams have matched up evenly in six games so far on the season. Each team has won three games: Toronto is 3-2-1 vs. the Senators; and, Ottawa is 3-3-0 vs. the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs hold a narrow edge in goal scoring at 23-21.
Second, the Senators have gained points in five straight games (3-0-2) and are coming off consecutive victories against the Calgary Flames. For them this season, that’s a roll.
As the Maple Leafs organize its roster in preparation for tonight’s game, in this post I want to help Maple Leafs’ fans stay more current on the team’s roster moves. With waiver-exempt players this season, there’s been a ton of movement from the AHL, to the taxi squad, to the Maple Leafs’ active roster. It can be tough to keep up.
As fans, we – OK, I’m speaking about myself here – have a tendency to see what’s happening from the Maple Leafs’ perspective. However, there are other considerations the organization must regularly engage. Specifically, both head coach Sheldon Keefe and general manager Kyle Dubas must always have in mind the Marlies’ active roster as well. COVID-19 has created a really odd situation that’s exceedingly dynamic and tough to follow.
Item One: Jack Campbell Will Get His Second Straight Start
There’s no goalie controversy in Toronto – at least just yet. Jack Campbell will be starting in place of Frederik Andersen tonight against the Senators, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s supplanted Anderson as the go-to guy.
It happens that Anderson is injured and he’ll be unable to play for up to two weeks. That’s said, were Anderson healthy, we might be engaging in a different level of conversation about who should be guarding the team’s net.
Right now, it’s sufficient to say that Campbell will fill in for injured netminder Andersen. That said, Campbell has played really well this season – when he’s been healthy. Here’s saying that, if he could string together a run of good games while Andersen is absent, he might just take over Toronto’s goaltending job.
Campbell has a 4-0-0 record this year with a goals-against average of 1.00 and a save percentage .965. It’s difficult to find a goalie with better numbers. Campbell was unbeatable last Saturday against the Flames, stopping all 31 shots that came his way. It was his second shutout of the season in only four games.
Item Two: Don’t Expect Frederik Andersen Back for at Least a Week
Even if Campbell blows up in goal, Maple Leafs fans shouldn’t expect to see Anderson back in less than a week. He didn’t suit up in last Saturday’s game against Calgary because of his lower-body injury; and, at that time, it was reported that he would be out for up to 10 days.
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Head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that there’s no timeline for Andersen’s return to the team. I suppose when he returns has much to do with how Campbell plays. However, it’s certain Andersen will miss tonight’s game against Ottawa and Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
I have a sense that Anderson’s been injured for some time; however, because Campbell was also injured himself, I’m not sure the Maple Leafs head coach felt a healthy Michael Hutchinson was a better option than an injured Andersen. We do know that Anderson hasn’t suited up for any of the team’s practices this week.
Item Three: Alexander Barabanov Had a Busy Week – on Paper Anyway
This week Alexander Barabanov had a busy week moving up and down the organizational depth chart. Earlier in the week he was promoted from the taxi squad to the active roster; however, yesterday he moved back to the taxi squad.
Barabanov hasn’t scored a point in the 11 NHL games he’s played this season. Since the beginning of March, he’s only played at the AHL level with the Toronto Marlies; and, he’s played well. It’s unclear what the organization’s plans are for the young Russian in the near future.
At the NHL level, Barabanov’s been a healthy scratch for six straight games, so returning him to the taxi squad isn’t much of a surprise.
Item Four: Scott Sabourin Moved to Team’s Taxi Squad
Scott Sabourin was added to the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad. The move is likely temporary and Sabourin should return to the Marlies soon. He hasn’t played in an NHL game this season.
Item Five: Mac Hollowell also Assigned to the Taxi Squad
Mac Hollowell was also moved to the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad. Similar to Sabourin, this move is probably temporary. Obviously, Hollowell will get in some practice time with the Maple Leafs. He’s scored five points in 16 AHL games this season.
Item Six: Kristians Rubins Moved to the Active Roster on Emergency Basis
Kristians Rubins joined the taxi squad from the AHL’s Marlies earlier this week. Rubins has yet to make his NHL debut and it isn’t likely tonight. The 23-year-old defenseman has registered three points in 16 AHL games on the season.
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Rubins was promoted to the active roster under “emergency conditions.” However, I couldn’t find out what the emergency was. It might just be a way for the organization to manage their depth players’ game action with the Marlies this season. The speculation I’ve seen is that defencemen Hollowell and Rubins and forward Sabourin joined the Maple Leafs taxi squad this week to allow Martin Marincin, Timothy Liljegren, and Nic Petan to get in some game action with the Marlies.
Item Seven: Nic Petan Moved to the Marlies
Nic Petan was sent to the Marlies this week. He’s scored a single assist in seven games with the Maple Leafs. There’s a chance he’ll return to the team’s taxi squad for the game tonight.
Item Eight: Timothy Liljegren Won’t Be Playing Tonight Against the Senators
Timothy Liljegren was moved to the AHL Marlies a day ago. I was hoping to see him have a chance to play in the NHL, but it doesn’t seem that will happen this week. As I noted in an earlier post, he’s been playing well in the AHL, scoring seven points in 10 games.
Item Nine: Martin Marincin Moves Down to the AHL
Martin Marincin was reassigned to the Marlies this week. Although he’s been providing insurance for the Maple Leafs over the past couple of seasons, he hasn’t yet made his season’s NHL debut. In the four AHL games he’s played, he scored an assist.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Tonight’s game doesn’t look easy for the Senators for two reasons. First, schedule-wise Ottawa played on both Monday and Wednesday, while the Maple Leafs have been resting. Toronto didn’t play from March 15-18, played back-to-back home games against the Flames, then have been on a four-day break. They are rested and practiced.
Second, the Senators are playing different goalies. The team’s three top goalies are all injured and that allowed young rookie Filip Gustavsson into his first NHL action. He stopped 63 of 65 shots to win his first two career NHL starts. Good on him.
However, the Senators are coming off back-to-back games, which likely means the team will rest Gustavsson tonight. That means new goalie Anton Forsberg will make his first Senators’ start. The Senators picked Forsberg off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets last week, and Forsberg hasn’t played in an NHL game in more than a year (since March 7, 2020).
Still, as a number of team’s have learned – including the Maple Leafs – the Senators play hard and can’t be counted out.