Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Woll, Marner, Tavares & Odd Lineup

The NHL season will be restarting on Tuesday, December 28, with three of the four games originally scheduled to take place. These games will be the first since the NHL extended its Christmas break starting on December 21st. 

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The Toronto Maple Leafs actually held practice yesterday. However, the team had so many players in the COVID-19 protocol that it was determined it couldn’t ice a lineup for Wednesday’s scheduled game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, even when players from the Toronto Marlies were added. Hence, the NHL postponed that game. 

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In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the season’s restart and share news about some of the players on the team. Today, there’s actually some good news.

Item One: If the Maple Leafs Had Had to Play 

On Sunday, the Maple Leafs could only find 16 skaters who were actually able to practice. That number included all the call-ups from the Marlies. Had the team had to put a lineup together, it would have looked like the one in the tweet below (except that goalie Ian Scott was on the injured reserve). 

Item Two: Joseph Woll Is the Team’s Only Goalie Available

Joseph Woll is now a healthy option for the Maple Leafs and was on the ice for yesterday’s practice. In fact, Woll and Ian Scott were the only two goalies on the ice for the practice. Both Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek remain in COVID-19 protocol. 

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, as noted above, Woll is the lone healthy goalie option. Scott is actually still on injured reserve with a groin injury. Still, although Scott isn’t eligible to play, at least he’s back on the ice. That’s a good sign for him and the Maple Leafs. 

Item Two: Good to See Mitch Marner Skating Again

In a bit of good news, Mitch Marner was back at practice on Sunday for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury during practice earlier this month. Marner’s shoulder injury hasn’t allowed him to play since December 1. Even better for Marner, although he’s still on the LTIR, the team’s postponed games count towards the 10 games he’s required to miss while on the LTIR. 

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That Marner was on LTIR had the positive but temporary impact of allowing the Maple Leafs to remain cap-compliant with other players being moved up and down from the Marlies. The postponed games won’t delay Marner’s return if he’s actually ready to play.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Marner skated with Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting during practice. However, even with Marner back at practice, the Maple Leafs won’t rush him back into game action. In fact, whether Marner’s shoulder was ready or not remained in question. 

Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas reported that “Obviously his (Marner’s) rehab was affected by the shutdown and the pause in our activity. I think after a few days of practice, we’ll get a beat on that, but to see him out there in practice today is a step in the right direction.” 

Item Three: John Tavares One of First Maple Leafs Off COVID-19 Protocol

John Tavares was one of the Maple Leafs’ players to practice yesterday and has been removed from COVID-19 protocol. The report was that Tavares was one of the first on the team who came down with the virus; and, for a while, he was hit hard. He had a pounding headache, severe body aches, and a total loss of energy, smell, and taste.

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However Tavares reported that, “From Monday, I started to kind of just feel better every day in terms of my energy and just feeling like myself.” 

Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Now that the Maple Leafs won’t play Wednesday against the Penguins, Tavares will be ready for the team’s next game. Because so many games were postponed, Tavares didn’t miss any games because of his positive test results.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

As it stands right now, the Maple Leafs’ new first game back will be on New Year’s Day. For Maple Leafs’ fans who’ve lost track, the team will start at home on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

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They’ll then play the Carolina Hurricanes at home on January 3, which will be followed by a game on January 5 against the Edmonton Oilers – also at home.

Let’s hope that, in five days, there will be a Maple Leafs’ team ready to play.