St. Paul, Minn. — The Toronto Maple Leafs face a bit of uncertainty in their lineup before opening up a set of back-to-back games on the road in the NHL’s Central Division, beginning with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
Forwards Mitch Marner, Ondrej Kase, defenseman Ondrej Kase and goaltender Joseph Woll are all game-time decisions, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Marner was involved in an on-ice collision with defenseman Jake Muzzin at practice on Friday. After the two engaged in an animated conversation about the incident, Marner left the session shortly after as a precautionary measure.
Although Marner’s status is uncertain, his teammates feel like the situation was a bit overblown.
“There was a lot of good-natured ribbing going around,” Leafs defenseman Justin Holl said. “When people are making fun of you for it, nobody really cares.”
It’s not the first time this season Marner’s been involved in a practice incident. One day before the opening night of the season, teammate Wayne Simmonds inadvertently made contact with Marner’s head.
Marner ended up being ok to play the following night. He has played in all 24 games this season and has tallied six goals and 15 assists
Kase took part in his first practice with team on Friday since he’s missed the last three games with an upper-body injury. He took his usual spot on the third line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall on the left side.
“His compete level is as high as anyone and he was pretty dynamic offensively there for a while,” Alex Kerfoot said of Kase. “I think he’s going to pick up right where he left off.”
Kase has five goals and three assists in 21 games.
Rielly missed practice on Friday when woke up with pain over the last couple of days after a delayed reaction to blocking a shot on the team’s California trip. Whatever it was, it didn’t bother him enough to prevent him from playing in the team’s 8-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. X-rays on the undisclosed injury came back negative.
“We don’t know what his status is but he brings a whole lot to our team, both offensively and defensively,” Holl said of Rielly. “Regardless of what happens, we’re going to have to be prepared to play as best as we can.”
Joseph Woll remains a game-time decision. He was not able to back up on Thursday due to stiffness. When speaking to the media on Friday, Woll felt comfortable enough to be back in the lineup if called upon.
Jack Campbell is the confirmed starting goaltender against the Minnesota Wild.
What the morning skate told us
Players that stayed on late for the opening skate were Kyle Clifford, Ilya Mikheyev (injured), Timothy Liljegren, Woll, and Michael Hutchinson.
Liljegren’s presence strongly signals that Rielly is likely to play. If there was any doubt, Liljegren probably departs the session early and doesn’t stick around with the other scratches.
Notably absent was forward Joey Anderson. Although he’s played in the last game, Kase’s presumable return would have made Anderson a scratch. But since there is also uncertainty around Marner, he didn’t stay on for extra work in the event he is called upon.
The team is currently at the maximum 23-man active roster limit. It’s possible Anderson could just be sent down before game time, but given the uncertainty around the lineup, he would have at least skated with the other scratches before that switch.
“We’re not in a situation where we’re expecting we’re going to need three (changes to the lineup), but we do have two extra guys here, so it’ll be ok,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.”
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