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Siegel: Mounting injuries will test surprising Maple Leafs

Jonas Siegel
2/13/2013 10:59:58 PM
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RALEIGH, N.C. – Decked out in the red practice jersey of the Leafs third line, Jay McClement was skating Wednesday afternoon in place of the team's second-leading goal-scorer and, now injured, winger.

Just a day after announcing that James Reimer, their emerging number one goaltender, would miss at least a week with a left knee strain, the Leafs declared Matt Frattin out for a minimum of seven days, requiring a procedure to clean up some lingering damage from knee surgery last summer.

"It's not something the doctors feel that's going to be a long-term thing," head coach Randy Carlyle said following practice in Toronto, "but it definitely is something for us to concern [ourselves with]."

While they've managed to trot on (8-5-0) without Joffrey Lupul (forearm) – likely out at least another couple weeks – and Carl Gunnarsson (hip) – inching closer but still experiencing pain – the Leafs' challenge will mount considerably with the added loss of Reimer and Frattin.

Widespread contributions, most prominently from James van Riemsdyk and Korbinian Holzer, have allowed the club to survive without two critical pieces. Whether they can hold up without Frattin – seven goals and 10 points in 10 games – and of greater importance, Reimer, who was sitting amongst the league leaders in save percentage when he went down on Monday night, remains a question.

Scrivens was superb in relief of Reimer against the Flyers, stopping 32 of 33 shots in a 5-2 victory. But he's made just four starts to date (15 for his career), most recently winning in Washington with a sturdy 24-save performance against the Capitals. 

"You prepare for the unexpected," the 26-year-old Scrivens said. "It's a little bit of the Boy Scout mentality, prepare for everything. I was never in Boy Scouts, but I know it's something to that effect."

Among the most pressing questions before the year began, goaltending has been of relatively low concern for the Leafs so far, a fact that will be tested with Reimer sidelined and Scrivens stepping in. One of the top goaltenders in the American Hockey League last season, the Leafs need their number two to take full advantage of his opportunity and provide something approaching the stability Reimer was able to offer in the opening month.

"I don't really want to look at it any more than I've got an opportunity – whenever I get in, if that's the next game – that I've got an opportunity to play one more game, learn and try and give the team a chance to win," the Spruce Grove, Alberta native said.

Reimer will miss three starts at the very least, but considering the difficulty he had limping off the ice – failing to put any weight on his left leg – the hasty schedule and limited practice time, something extending beyond that seems far more likely. And in this crunched 48-game season, any lingering absence could prove significant; even two weeks on the shelf would chop off seven games or a fifth of the remaining schedule (35 games). All the more reason that Scrivens must run with his opportunity.

Others have made stepped forward in similar circumstance.

Minding the void for Lupul on a line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, van Riemsdyk has emerged to the forefront with eight goals and 10 points in the last 11 games. Recalled from the Marlies to replace Gunnarsson, Holzer has offered an increasingly stable presence, recently moving onto a top pairing with Dion Phaneuf.

While Jay McClement figures to fill the void left by Frattin, who sizzled in limited action with Nazem Kadri, Clarke MacArthur, the third member of the trio, may just be the player to watch. MacArthur has been quiet to date offensively – despite a slew of chances – but did manage his second goal of the year in the victory over the Flyers on a helper from Kadri. A two-time 20-goal man, the Leafs could use his offence with Frattin out. And while he assumes a taxing shutdown role, Mikhail Grabovski is pointless in eight games and expects to make a contribution in the offensive end. The 28-year-old will take Frattin's place on a second powerplay unit with Kadri and MacArthur.
 
The Leafs play five of their next seven games on the road – they've won six of seven away from the Air Canada Centre – beginning on Thursday night against the Hurricanes.    

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