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Samsonov out more than a week, exact timeline TBD; Murray nears return

Ilya Samsonov Toronto Maple Leafs Ilya Samsonov - The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs held a media availability at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Sunday afternoon. Mark Masters has more.

Ilya Samsonov was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a knee injury on Saturday. 

"He's going to have a MRI later today so we'll have more information on him at that time," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "With the nature of the injury and probably, more specifically, with his position, it's going to be more than a week. We'll know probably later today or tomorrow."


After saying Matt Murray was still "a ways away" earlier this week, Keefe had a more optimistic outlook on Sunday. 

"I've had a lot more interest in his status here in the last little bit," Keefe said with a small smile. "Physically, he's feeling very good and is probably ahead of schedule in that sense. It's now just a matter of making sure he gets the proper reps in practice and things like that."

Murray sustained an adductor injury on Oct. 15. The team announced he would miss at least four weeks. 

Murray is expected to take part in Tuesday's team skate. The team has a scheduled day off on Monday. 

"Murray's return is on the horizon here," Keefe stressed. 

The Leafs play on Tuesday (Vegas), Friday (Pittsburgh) and Saturday (Vancouver) next week. 


Keith Petruzzelli, who is 6-0-0 with a .922 save percentage with the Toronto Marlies this season, has signed an NHL deal. The 23-year-old will dress as Toronto's back-up goalie on Sunday. 

"He's a guy who was a third-round pick in the NHL and doesn't get signed, but ultimately dominates college hockey," Keefe said. "Our organization identified him as a guy to give an opportunity to, to continue to work with and develop. He was dominant in the ECHL last season. He's been dominant in the AHL to start this season. It's not a guy who's come in completely out of nowhere. Certainly, his signing is probably expedited given our situation, but he's a guy that our organization has believed in and, frankly, the way it was going his signing was somewhat inevitable." 

The Quinnipiac University product, who was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 2017, has never played in the NHL. 

"To have him in here is a real nice story for a guy that's just continued to work and has responded to an organization believing in him," Keefe continued. "Happy that it's worked out this way for him."

The 6-foot-5, 185-pounder has 11 American Hockey League games on his resume dating back to last season. 


With Petr Mrazek and Jack Campbell struggling through injuries and poor play last season, Erik Kallgren stepped in and won eight of 12 starts. For now, the Leafs’ crease belongs to him once again.  

"I played a few games last year," the 26-year-old said. "I played a few games this year so I'm prepared to play and I want to play, of course. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm ready."

"He's just really calm and collected in the net," observed Auston Matthews. "He doesn't really say too much, but I think his demeanour does the talking for him. His confidence speaks for itself. He's really steady in there so all of us have a lot of confidence in him to go out there and win some games for us."

Kallgren stopped all seven shots in relief on Saturday night. His save percentage is .884 on the year. 

"I've been feeling pretty good in games," he said, "but had a few goals here and there that I'm not happy with. Overall my game feels good, but obviously not the results I've wanted here for the first couple games, but a big win [Saturday] and try to bring that into [Raleigh]."

"I skated with him in the summer," said fellow Swede William Nylander. "He's been looking really good. He's going to get some time now to show what he can do." 

Kallgren has lost all three starts this season, dropping games against Arizona, San Jose and Anaheim. 

"He's going to have a team that's playing better in front of him than he's had in his previous starts," Keefe promised.  

Kallgren stopped 34 of 36 shots to beat the Hurricanes in his second career start last season. 

"As he played some games for us last year, he got a taste of how it is to play here," said defenceman Timothy Liljegren. "Just came in to take a spot this year and a good opportunity for him today to show that."


Liljegren made his NHL season debut on Saturday logging 15 minutes and 50 seconds against the Bruins. 

"Felt solid," the Swede said. "Not my best game, but solid. I think I need a couple more games to really get back into it but, yeah, felt solid."

The biggest adjustment?

"Just timing," he said. "Get skating right with your gaps and read the forechecks and stuff like that."

Liljegren missed the first month of the season while recovering from hernia surgery.  


The Leafs are passing around a wrestling championship belt inside the dressing room following wins this season. On Saturday night, John Tavares passed it to Justin Holl. 

"He had a lot of really good plays especially late in the third when Boston was really pushing us hard on the PK and when they pulled the goalie," Liljegren said. "He deserved that belt."

Holl posted four blocks while logging 21 minutes and 19 seconds of ice time, including almost four minutes shorthanded.  


After a slow start, Matthews is heating up. He has scored in four of five games, including his first multi-goal performance of the season on Saturday in a 2-1 win over the Atlantic-leading Bruins. Both goals came close to the net. 

"Those are areas I don't think he had gone to enough," said Keefe, "and yet he had been getting there and missing some of those — virtual tap-ins that hadn't fallen for him. He just continued to go there and continued to work."

Does Matthews feel like he's in a groove now? 

"I hope so," the 25-year-old centre said. "I just want to continue to play hard and try and get my opportunities and make good on them ... Just trying to possess the puck as much offensively and obviously keep the puck out of our own end at the same time. So, it's a challenge at times, but just trying to get rolling."

Teammates have no doubt the Rocket Richard Trophy winner is about to get rolling. 

"Of course," Nylander said with a smile, "that's what he does." 

Matthews scored in both games against the Hurricanes (and good friend Frederik Andersen) last season. He missed the third game against Carolina due to a suspension. 


Faced with their toughest opponent of the season, the Leafs raised their game. 

"We just found another level," said Keefe following the win over Boston. "We moved the puck better and we skated harder both ways. We knew that Boston was going to demand our absolute best if we were going to compete with that. Our guys not only met that, but I thought we established the pace of the game early rather than just sort of feeling our way through it. That first 10 or 12 minutes were definitely the quickest and best we have been all season. That provided the foundation for the win."

Toronto scored the only even-strength goal of the game and limited the Bruins to 21 shots.  

"Not a whole lot of ice out there for either team and not a whole lot of scoring chances at 5-on-5 for either team," Keefe noted. "There was not a lot of scoring chances on special teams for either team. They made good on their power play in that they earned a penalty shot. We got a power play and made good on it. Obviously, I didn't love the penalties we took in the third period, but the penalty kill was outstanding. It was one of those games where the guys were absolutely committed and seemed like they weren’t going to be denied tonight."

Saturday was the Leafs' first win of the season in which they never trailed. 

"This is a different level of NHL than what we had been playing in," Keefe said. "This was a different league than we have played in during the previous 11 games — both in how we played and how the opponent played. It was the type of game you get in the latter part of the season." 

The challenge is even greater on Sunday as the Leafs face a rested Hurricanes side. 

"The back-to-back is a challenge as it is, but we are going to try to talk about it as little as possible," Keefe said. "The opponent itself is challenging enough. We just have to focus on that. Competing how we did today is a really good sample of what is going to be required. Let’s kind of trap that in our minds and try to do it again out on the road."


Keefe confirmed that Nick Robertson will play on Sunday after sitting out the last two games. Wayne Simmonds will be a healthy scratch.