Dubas was determined Leafs' season won't be derailed by depth issues: 'It's go time now'
The Toronto Maple Leafs skated at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Monday.
General manager Kyle Dubas acquired forwards Riley Nash and Nick Foligno, defenceman Ben Hutton and goalie David Rittich over the past few days without subtracting any core players from the roster.
"It speaks volumes," said alternate captain Morgan Rielly, the longest-serving Leaf. "As players, we have to take that as a big responsibility...I mean, it's go time now. We got to start working and get the process down before playoffs. It's really on us to play and to win and to take it from there."
Last season, with the team struggling to perform consistently, Dubas didn't make any notable moves around the deadline. This year, Toronto arrived at the deadline having won nine of 10 games while sitting comfortably in first place in the North Division.
"We're excited," said captain John Tavares. "It's great that we have the belief and trust from our management team and it's up to us to make the most of it."
The biggest addition is Foligno, who helped the Blue Jackets eliminate the Leafs in a five-game series last summer.
"Just one of these guys that does whatever it takes to win," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "Versatile, can play any position and anywhere in the lineup. Can play the game any way you want to play it. Great leadership qualities. Plays extremely hard. He just checks so many boxes of the things you need to win when it matters most."
Keefe refused to say where he plans to slot Foligno in the lineup noting the team will have to play several more games as the 33-year-old forward serves a week-long quarantine.
"He's just an extremely competitive player," observed Tavares, "and within that he's got a real good understanding of his skill set and how he makes an impact and, to me, that's [with] his ability to protect the puck, hang on to the puck, the little plays he makes around the walls, in tight around the net [and] his finishing ability. He just seems to have that determination and drive to make an impact every time he's on the ice."
Foligno only posted seven goals and nine assists in 42 games during a tough season in Columbus, but his new teammates point out the former Blue Jackets captain has a proven track record.
"He plays hard," noted Rielly. "He's a big man. He's good in the corners. He's good with the puck. He's just a really well-rounded player. He's worked hard over his career to really build that reputation. To add a player like that is a great feeling. We're very lucky to have him."
Rittich went 4-7-1 with a .904 save percentage with the Calgary Flames this season, but some of his best games came against his new team.
"He certainly played very well against the Leafs, so that stands out. Our players have a strong impression of him," said Keefe. "His addition definitely adds to our depth in goal and that's a very good thing."
Rittich went 1-2-1 against Toronto with a .941 save percentage this season. The 28-year-old pending unrestricted free agent is expected to be in Toronto by Tuesday and available to play against his old team, although no decision has been made.
Keefe planned to touch base with Rittich on Tuesday afternoon.
"I got to see where he's at," the coach noted.
Jack Campbell gets the call tonight in Montreal. He is making four consecutive starts for the first time since early in the 2018-19 season when he started seven straight for Los Angeles.
Frederik Andersen is sidelined with a lower-body injury and hasn't skated since March 19. Last week, Keefe said there's no timeline for Andersen's return.
The Leafs will make one lineup change tonight as Nick Robertson draws in for Alexander Barabanov, who was traded to San Jose on Monday afternoon in exchange for Antti Suomela.
Robertson sustained a knee injury in his first NHL game this season back on Jan. 16 in Ottawa. The 5-foot-9 winger returned to game action on Feb. 15 with the Marlies in the American Hockey League. He also missed time with an oblique injury this season.
"He's worked hard at his game," noted Marlies coach Greg Moore, "being very responsible for 200 feet and also contributing offensively. It will be good for him to get that experience and get those reps [in the NHL]. He's a person that has come here and done everything the right way. He's worked hard and made sure that, within this process, he's looking to get better in every situation and hopefully that translates into some success today."
Robertson produced 10 points in 14 AHL games this season.
The Leafs are shaking up their slumping power play once again. The players who occupy the bumper and net-front positions flipped units at the morning skate. So, Joe Thornton and Simmonds are back on the top unit while Tavares and Zach Hyman shifted to the second unit.
Here's how they skated this morning:
Auston Matthews - Thornton - Mitch Marner
Jason Spezza - Tavares - Alex Galchenyuk
The first unit is now back to how it looked at the start of the season.
Toronto has converted just once on its last 34 chances dating back 14 games while allowing three short-handed goals, including one on Saturday night.
Lines at Monday's morning skate:
Galchenyuk - Matthews - Marner
Mikheyev - Tavares - Hyman
Robertson - Engvall - Simmonds
Thornton - Kerfoot - Spezza
Rielly - Brodie
Muzzin - Holl
Dermott - Bogosian