The Minnesota Wild skate into Scotiabank Arena to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. It’s a tough game for the Wild because the team just played and won 2-0 against the Ottawa Senators on Monday. It was goalie dual, with the Wild scoring into an empty net at game’s end for the team’s second goal.
The fact that the Wild will be coming off a back-to-back and the Maple Leafs last played on Saturday gives the home team an advantage. The Maple Leafs should be well-rested ready for action.
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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I want to keep Maple Leafs fans up-to-date with the news and rumors that are emerging from the organization. There have been key player movements and notable highlights.
Item One: Maple Leafs Loan Sandin to Marlies
For now, anyway, the experiment has been discontinued. The Maple Leafs announced that the team has sent Rasmus Sandin to the team’s AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. It’s a bit of surprise because Sandin looked as if he had been playing well with the big club. In fact, during the team’s blowout loss to the St. Louis Blues, I had graded him as one of the better Maple Leafs players.
Pierre LeBrun of TSN is calling it a developmental move. LeBrun believes the Maple Leafs want to get Sandin more ice time than he’s currently been getting at the NHL level.
To take Sandin’s place on the roster, the Maple Leafs recalled defenceman Kevin Gravel from the Marlies. Gravel is a veteran defenseman with 106 NHL games on his resume. He isn’t an offensive force, but the Maple Leafs don’t need much offense from their defense. Instead, the team needs steady, shut-down players. They have given up at least three goals in four of their six games.
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Item Two: Timashov Is a Point-a-Game Player
Not that the Maple Leafs’ fourth line hasn’t been noticeable, especially during the road win against the Detroit Red Wings; however, under most fans’ radar is the fact that the 23-year-old Ukrainian Dmytro Timashov has scored three assists in three games with the Maple Leafs this season. And, these assists have come with very limited ice time.
Timashov had two assists in the win over the Red Wings and topped 10 minutes of ice time for the first time this season. The young forward has been scratched for as many games as he’s played (three played, three scratched), but he’s played well when he’s been in the lineup.
Item Three: Maple Leafs Looking to Add More Russian Forwards?
The ever-diligent Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas seems always to be working, especially in Russia. KHL insider Igor Eronko notes that Dubas was recently scouting in Russia, and met with two KHLers (and former NHL players) who will hit the open market next summer: Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Nesterov.
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Grigorenko, who is now 25 years old, was a 2012 first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres who played over 200 games with the Sabres and Colorado Avalanche before returning to Russia in 2017. The power forward was in the KHL’s top-10 in scoring last season and helped lead CSKA Moscow to a Gagarin Cup title. This season, he’s already scored 15 points in his first 16 games.
Nesterov, now 26, is Grigorenko’s CSKA teammate. He also returned to the KHL in 2017 after three NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. Nesterov is a defensive defenseman and had been a key piece of his KHL team’s success for the past two seasons. Although he seldom scores, he should be highly coveted.
With the recent success Dubas has had with young, former KHLers (Ilya Mikheyev is the most recent example), it’s likely he’ll take a chance at picking up another Russian or two for next season’s team.
Item Four: Woll’s First AHL Start? A Shutout!
Joseph Woll made his first AHL start on Saturday and stopped every shot (23 of them) he faced in Toronto Marlies’ 3-0 shutout of the Manitoba Moose. Although Woll broke his finger during the Traverse City Prospect Tournament last month, he’s obviously healed enough to start the season.
Woll was drafted in the third round (62nd overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and recently finished his NCAA career at Boston College. It’s likely Woll and goalie partner Kasimir Kaskisuo will share the Marlies’ net this season.
Maple Leafs fans who follow the team might recall that Woll was invited (and accepted) the chance to travel, practice, and train with the team for the final five weeks of the season – even during the seven-game playoff loss to the Boston Bruins.
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Item Five: Is Dermott Ready to Return?
In a tweet on Oct. 14, Travis Dermott was reported to have taken part in Monday’s practice without wearing a yellow injury jersey. That’s good news because it means his shoulder is likely healed enough to take and give contact. He was reported to have worked on the fourth pairing with Gravel, who was recently called up from the Marlies.
We’ll have to follow this story more fully because Dermott showed great signs of developing last season when he played 64 games, scoring four goals, 13 assists, for 17 points.
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What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Frederik Andersen will get the start in goal on Tuesday, but likely Michael Hutchinson will follow up in the back-to-back coming on Wednesday in Washington against the Capitals. Andersen’s .886 save percentage and 3.38 goals against average is a bit gaudy for an elite goalie. It’ll be good to see if the Maple Leafs can shut down the Wild tomorrow.