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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised in two groups at Mile One Centre, N.L., on Monday. 

Frederik Andersen started 66 games in each of his first two seasons with the Leafs. Last season, he made 60 starts and that total would've been higher had he not missed three weeks with a groin injury. In an interview with The Athletic on Sunday, Andersen said the target for this season is lower. 

"The ballpark probably would be mid-50s," Andersen told Jonas Siegel, "maybe go a little bit lower and see where that leads us."

On Monday, he back-pedalled, but only a bit. 

"That could be a number," he said when asked to expand. "I don't want to guarantee anything or lock us into anything, but if everything goes well and we're able to play well we can probably try to go a little bit lower than we have before."

Andersen will work with the coaching staff and sport science department as the season progresses to determine what makes sense. One thing is clear, this is not a topic Andersen or coach Mike Babcock likes to go in-depth on. 

"I have some say, I'm sure, but I don't really want to go too far into what we talk about," Andersen said. "You'll see after 82 games how many games I’ll be playing. We can talk about the number then."

Babcock outlined some preconditions that must exist before load management takes effect. 

"You got to be in a good spot in the standings," he said. "No. 2, the guy you go to has to be able to play and have a chance to win so that’s what we're looking for."

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Toronto’s goalie depth is a big question mark entering the season and another red flag popped up on Monday. Michal Neuvirth is at camp on a pro tryout, but after an injury-plagued run with the Flyers in Philadelphia he's already dealing with an issue this season and skated separately from the main groups. 

"Obviously, it's not ideal for him," Babcock said. "If he wants to battle for a job he has to be in position to do that, but he also has to be healthy too."

That leaves Michael Hutchinson, who played just nine NHL games last year, as the frontrunner to win the backup job. 

"Regardless how many (games I play) there will be good amount of games still to be played with the other goalie," said Andersen, "and it's important we, as a team, have the confidence in whoever gets the job there."

After playing five games for the Leafs last season and spending time around the team in the playoffs, Hutchinson insists he's ready for a bigger role. ​

"It's one of those things where the more often you play, the more comfortable your teammates feel in what you bring to the game," said the 29-year-old. "I definitely feel ready. As a goalie, the more you play the easier the game becomes and the more the game slows down."

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After practising on his natural left side over the weekend, defenceman Rasmus Sandin skated on the right side with Ben Harpur on Monday. 

"I played a little bit on the right side last year and played on the right side before that so I'm pretty comfortable on the right," Sandin said. 

The 19-year-old is aiming to win a spot on Toronto's third blueline pair. 

The competition is wide open, according to Babcock. 

"I want someone to be better than someone else," the coach said. "I don't want to, at the end, have to decide. I want them to decide and I want it to be so obvious you all know, too."

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Lines at Monday’s Leafs practice:  

GROUP 1 
Playing Tuesday

Forwards
Kapanen-Tavares-Marner 
Engvall-Spezza-Moore … Baptiste rotating in
Marchment/Elynuik-Brooks-Bracco 
Timashov-Gauthier-Korshkov

Defencemen
Muzzin-Barrie
Marincin-Schmaltz
Gravel-Holl
Duszak-Lindgren 

Goaltenders
Andersen
Kaskisuo

Power play units:

Barrie
Marner-Tavares-Spezza
Korshkov

Schmaltz
Timashov-Brooks-Bracco
Marchment


GROUP 2
Playing Wednesday 

Forwards
Johnsson-Matthews-Nylander
Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Petan
Agostino-Gaudet-Read / Conrad
Aberg-Kossila-Shore / Clune 

Defencemen
Rielly-Ceci
Harpur-Sandin
Kivihalme-Liljegren
Rubins-Hollowell 

Goaltenders
Hutchinson
Halverson

Power play units: 

Rielly
Nylander-Petan-Matthews
Johnsson 

Sandin
Aberg-Agostino-Kossila
Gaudet