Although Frederik Andersen, nursing a groin injury, finally took part in a Toronto Maple Leafs’ practice, he won’t start in Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. Andersen did say hopefully, “It’s getting close.” He also noted that he has made good progress over the past few days and was obviously ready to practice. He was “feeling positive.”
Also positive, but in a different way, head coach Mike Babcock was positive that “Ontario Guy” Michael Hutchinson would start his second-straight game on Saturday. However, the question of who would back up Hutchinson was still up in the air.
There is a chance it might be Andersen sitting on the bench. However, Andersen himself noted the difficult decision-making balance between wanting to play immediately and “preparing for a long run for a long time in the spring.” If Andersen can’t play, the Maple Leafs will have to recall a goaltender from somewhere prior to the game against the Canucks. Kasimir Kaskisuo backed up Hutchinson in the 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but he was returned to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on Friday.
Item 1: Is Another Goalie Coming?
In a recent article, THW’s Jim Parsons noted that the Maple Leafs’ goalie situation is up in the air. In fact, further to Parsons’ article, a number of goalies names were rumored to be available for a trade or signing.
One name noted was Arizona’s Calvin Pickard, who played a single game with the Maple Leafs last year. Another name bandied about was Mike McKenna, who was just traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the Ottawa Senators and is on waivers, as of this writing.
Babcock reported that there’s no news about when Garret Sparks might practice again. But, he also noted that the Maple Leafs’ organization wants Kaskisuo to be playing rather than sitting as a backup, so having him with the big club isn’t good for him or the team. Hence, rumors are gurgling that the Maple Leafs might try to acquire another goaltender from somewhere.
Item 2: The “Next Generation Game” Was an Experience for New Canadians
Recently, I noted that Thursday’s matinee “Next Generation Game” was great fun for a number of children who got to be part of the festivities. What I didn’t note was that 10 program participants of the charity “Hockey is Canada” were able to experience their first live NHL game on Thursday all from the view of a donated private box.
What’s so interesting about these 10 teenagers is that they are all new to Canada in the past year from Pakistan, Turkey, Jamaica, Somalia, Syria, and Zanzibar – not exactly hotbeds of hockey. Moezine Hasham, the executive director and founder of Hockey 4 Youth, noted that the program “is an opportunity for these newcomer youth to experience something that is so Canadian.”
Item 3: Garret Sparks Does Indeed Have a Concussion
In probably a no-surprise announcement, the Maple Leafs announced that goalie Garret Sparks was officially diagnosed with a concussion. He was already on concussion protocol, but the team’s fears about the diagnosis were confirmed. Sparks won’t back up Hutchinson versus the Canucks on Saturday, which means either Andersen will be activated – just in case – or Kaskisuo might come back from the minors to serve as the backup goalie. Or, as noted, another surprise goalie might be announced.
Item 4: Sadly, Elias Pettersson Won’t Play
The Canucks roll into town for the last game of their six-game road trip (they are 3-2 on the trip) but must try to win without their young rookie star Elias Pettersson. Pettersson injured his right knee in Montreal when he got all tangled up with the Canadiens’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi during the second period. Both players fell, but no penalty was called.
Too bad that Maple Leafs’ fans will miss the young Pettersson, because he’s a rising star who has scored five goals and one assist in his last four games and 22 goals and 20 assists in 38 games this season. Included in those goals were two game-winners.
The Maple Leafs are now 26-12-2 and seeking a win after two straight losses. Perhaps not the best situation for the team, but I am excited to see how Hutchinson will do in goal. He probably will have lots of his family in attendance.
Like the Canucks, the Maple Leafs are also dealing with injuries. Not only are goalies Andersen and Sparks gone for the game, but also gone are Tyler Ennis and Zach Hyman.