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With Jarnkrok joining Marner on sidelines, Leafs forced to overhaul lines

Calle Jarnkrok Maple Leafs Calle Jarnkrok - The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs practised at Ford Performance Centre on Friday. 

Calle Jarnkrok crashed into the boards and hurt his hand on Thursday night in Philadelphia. 

"It's a week-to-week type of injury for him," coach Sheldon Keefe said. 

The 32-year-old was spotted wearing a cast at the team's practice facility on Friday. 

Jarnkrok joins Mitch Marner, who sustained a high ankle sprain on March 7, on the sidelines. Marner resumed skating on Thursday, but will miss a third straight game on Saturday when the Carolina Hurricanes visit Toronto. 

"He won't skate tomorrow and then we have a day off so a couple days for him to settle and then sort of start to ramp it back up for next week," said Keefe. 

Marner missed three and a half weeks with a high ankle sprain during the 2019-20 season. TSN Hockey Inside Darren Dreger reports the sprain is considered very mild

With Marner and Jarnkrok out, the Leafs are without two of their most versatile and defensively-responsible right wingers. 

"Two very hard guys to replace," acknowledged captain John Tavares, "so on the group to go out there and play a solid team game and look to elevate."

"Those are tough guys to be missing, for sure," said winger William Nylander, "but it's a chance for our group to build some resilience and find ways to win games without them and when they come back we'll be even better."

ContentId(1.2090523): Jarnkrok's hand injury leads to major shake-up at Leafs practice


Jarnkrok started Thursday's game on the top line beside Auston Matthews and Tyler Bertuzzi. After the injury, Pontus Holmberg got a look in that spot and responded well. Keefe liked how the 24-year-old was playing even before the promotion. 

"Just strong on the puck, winning battles, making plays, hanging onto the puck, showing confidence all those kind of things," Keefe observed. "I didn't know I was going to stay with Holmberg in that spot, quite honestly. I just needed him for that moment and he had one good shift so said we'll stay with it again, and he has another good shift so you just let it breathe there."

Holmberg set up Matthews' goal early in the third period. 

"Bergy made a really great play," Matthews said. "Just patient with the puck and found me coming through the middle and was able to just walk in all alone."  

Holmberg got an audition beside Matthews and Marner during a stretch of games in January. 

"I think last night was a good example, for me at least, or a good reminder, of why you give these guys these opportunities," Keefe said. "We gave Holmberg a run with Auston on left wing and I think that helps him be more comfortable when you go back to it like we need to right now."

Holmberg also scored in the first period on Thursday night. He's up to four goals and nine assists in 37 games this season. 

ContentId(1.2090556): Leafs Ice Chips: Holmberg sticks with Matthews; Lyubushkin questionable


With the deep and balanced Hurricanes coming to town, the Leafs will once again split up Nylander and Tavares. Nylander is reuniting with Max Domi, who moves back to the centre position on the second line. Bobby McMann, who signed a two-year extension on Wednesday, will join that unit. 

What stands out to Nylander about the undrafted 27-year-old? 

"His speed and the way he's able to score goals," Nylander said. "I mean, he works hard every day, so it's fun to see his journey to where he got the other night, got rewarded for all the hard work and everything that he put in. So, that will be fun."

Tavares will be flanked by 21-year-old rookie Matthew Knies and 22-year-old Nick Robertson

"Just make sure we're playing smart," Tavares said of the mindset. "Don't need to force the issue, but continue to use our strengths ... Not trying to do too much, but be really direct."

Noah Gregor will replace Ryan Reaves on the fourth line. He skated beside David Kampf and newcomer Connor Dewar, who slides over to the left wing. 

"Getting more versatility in," explained Keefe. "You're just trying to have a more versatile lineup in particular with the opponent we have tomorrow night that will be four lines deep and scoring spread out over four lines as much as more so than anybody in the league so it's a night where we’re going to need four lines."

Keefe noted that Gregor can take shifts shorthanded while Robertson will draw in on the second power-play unit. 

ContentId(1.2090610): Masters details how Leafs are adjusting lines with Jarnkrok, Marner out vs. Hurricanes


The Leafs needed a roster spot when Jarnkrok was ready to return from a broken knuckle on March 2, so Robertson was demoted to the American Hockey League. He didn't join the Toronto Marlies, though. 

"It's been kind of weird," he said. "I've just been practising on my own while the guys were on the road and just waiting for my turn, I guess. Unfortunately Jarny [is hurt] but an opportunity is an opportunity and I just want to make the most of it."

Robertson, who is one of two waiver-exempt players on the roster, told reporters on Monday that he was not happy to be away from the team. 

"He's faced a lot of adversity through his time with us," said Tavares. "Obviously has dealt with some tough injuries and he just keeps coming back. His passion for the game is very high. He works extremely hard. He's just been carrying a really good energy about him all year. I know he'll be looking forward to getting back at it." 

Robertson hasn't played since Feb. 29. His sense of anticipation to get back in? 

"Ahh, it's high," he said. "I just want to get playing and be with the guys and contribute any way I can. Just excited to play tomorrow for sure."

The pending restricted free agent has eight goals and 11 assists in 41 games with the Leafs this season. 

"This is the spot where Robbie's been at his best, when he's been out of the lineup and comes in and gives us a boost," Keefe said. "I'm fully expecting him to make an impact tomorrow."

Robertson scored a goal and finished plus-two in a game against the Hurricanes on Dec. 30. 

"It's going to be an intense game, for sure," he said. "They don't really give you any room out there so you have to find ways to make plays. It's probably going to be a gritty one. It's probably not going to be the prettiest game. I'm sure, if we battle and play our game, hopefully we'll get the two points."   

In the past, Robertson has lamented the fact he gets in his head too much. Last season, he mused about potentially getting a dog to help deal with the stress. Did he ever get a pet? 

"No, I didn't, but actually I'm taking care of Lagesson's dog while he's in Anaheim," Robertson revealed.  

Defenceman William Lagesson was claimed off waivers by the Ducks on March 8. 

"He's a good dog," Robertson said with a smile. "I took care of him for a couple days when the boys went on the road last week. It's a little more responsibility than I like. The apartment building, when you're on the high floor, it kind of sucks going down at nighttime and stuff, but it gives me some responsibility so look forward to it, I guess." 

ContentId(1.2090524): Dog-sitting Robertson eager to get back in beside Tavares


Jarnkrok had been filling Marner's spot on the top power-play unit. It was Timothy Liljegren who joined that group at practice. 

Liljegren quarterbacked the top unit for five games when Morgan Rielly was suspended last month. The Leafs converted on 47 per cent of their chances during that stretch. 

"Lily, when he's been with our No. 1 group, has really helped speed us up and get pucks to the net," Keefe said. 

Liljegren, like Marner and Jarnkrok, is a righty. 

"Just having that right shot against the amount of pressure that we'll be facing is helpful just to get out of pressure," said Keefe, "help us on the entries, all those kind of things."

The Hurricanes are second overall in penalty-kill percentage this season (85.4).

"A very good penalty kill we're playing tomorrow that pressures as well as anyone," said Tavares. "Very aggressive, so I think just making quick plays, good puck support, and obviously when you earn an opportunity, get pucks there and bodies as well."

The Leafs are fourth overall in power-play percentage this season (26.6), but trending in the wrong direction. Toronto is 1/20 on the man advantage over the last eight games. They have also surrendered two shorthanded goals in that stretch, although one came in garbage time on Thursday.  

ContentId(1.2090521): Liljegren joins top unit as Leafs experiment with two d-men on PP


Matthews made a nice play to set up Bertuzzi for the ice breaker in Philadelphia. 

"It was a great pass by Auston and a great finish by Bert," said Keefe. "That is a great moment to get us going, score early, and play ahead."

The duo had struggled on Saturday in Montreal, but used the rare four-day break in the schedule to get back on track. 

"A lot better for us offensively, and we were really good defensively too," Bertuzzi noted. "We weren't in our zone too much and when we're good with that that brings the offensive zone into play."

Bertuzzi made a beautiful swinging deflection on a point shot, which appeared to give the Leafs a 3-0 lead, but the goal overturned by a successful challenge from the Flyers for a missed glove pass. 

"I remember when I touched it I was like, 'Ah, this probably isn't good,'" Bertuzzi said of the hand pass. "I just tried to get a stick on it and I got lucky that it went in." 

Bertuzzi has six goals in the last nine games and is getting his second extended look beside Matthews this season.  

"He just always seems to come up with pucks in those dirty areas," raved Matthews. "He's just sticky to it, and he's always in front of the net. He's good with his stick, tipping pucks, redirection, stuff like that. He was all over it. It makes it easy to play with a guy like that, when you just know he's going to be in around the net, and he's got a good stick, so just try and look for him throughout the game and connected on a couple good ones."

"He's a little slimy," Liljegren noted with a smile, "jumps all over the place, kind of hard to read, I guess. He has a lot of second and third efforts."

Bertuzzi's net-front game is a big reason why Keefe believes he'll be a good fit with Matthews, who leads the NHL with 55 goals. 

"The puck's always going there so I like to be around that area," Bertuzzi said. "Try and get some tips or, [set a] screen or cause chaos and get some secondary chances."  

ContentId(1.2090525): 'Slimy' Bertuzzi impressing Leafs with net-front 'chaos'


With his team up 6-1, Keefe sent out his top unit for a power play late in the third period.  

"We were trying to double up some of our third and fourth-line guys," Keefe explained. "We got the power play and you don't want to put the top guys out, but the other guys were exhausted."

Flyers assistant coach Rocky Thompson, who was helping run the bench in the absence of suspended head coach John Tortorella, didn't care for the move and let Keefe hear about it. Keefe called the reaction understandable. 

"I had no intention of doing that," he said. "I already reached out to the other side. We had tired people on our bench. I have to manage my team and my bench at that time, too. They got a shortie out of it."

After a 30-seconds shift, Keefe sent out a group of bottom-six forwards and the Flyers scored a shorthanded goal. 

ContentId(1.2090421): The Talking Point: Did Sheldon Keefe break 'The Code' vs. the Flyers?


Defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin missed Friday's practice. 

"He took some hits yesterday, obviously, and those things tightened up on him today, so wasn't feeling as good," Keefe said. "We're still hopeful he'll be available tomorrow, but we'll have to see how he responds."

Lyubushkin left the bench twice during Thursday's game, including after taking a heavy hit from Garnet Hathaway in the third period. 


The Leafs had an edge in net on Thursday. Ilya Samsonov stopped 26 of 28 shots in the win. Samuel Ersson allowed three goals on 12 shots and was pulled after the first period. 

"Goaltending was a factor here," Keefe pointed out. "Sammy made great saves for us. We got some that I am sure their goalie coach doesn't love on the other side. In the second period, they made the goalie switch and the guy [Felix Sandstrom] made some big saves. They scored, and it was a game there."

It marked the first time a goalie made consecutive starts for the Leafs since Joseph Woll returned from a high ankle sprain on Feb. 29. Samsonov and Woll had split the previous six starts. Toronto had been off since playing on Saturday in Montreal where Samsonov stopped 29 of 31 shots in a win. Samsonov has won 13 of his last 15 starts. 

Woll lost his last two starts, both against the Boston Bruins, while allowing four goals each time. 

"We were trying to build up Woll and get him back in the net and not have him too far between starts, but you also, at the same time, have to be mindful of Samsonov who's in a good rhythm," Keefe said prior to Thursday's game. "It came down to Sammy playing well the another night and feeling good and the gap between games. That's what we'll do here, but I suspect for the next little while it will be a day-to-day decision."

The coach declined to name the starter for the game against the Hurricanes following Friday's workout. However, Samsonov was the first goalie off the ice at practice and indicated to TSN he was preparing to play. 


A fan on the glass during Thursday's warm-up held a sign that read, "MAX DOMI!! I'm a T1D TOO!" 

Domi, who is a type-one diabetic, made a point of passing a puck to the kid. 

"Most games you'll see those signs," Domi said. "There's for sure one almost every game. It's always awesome. I remember what I was like when I was that age."

Domi drew inspiration from Flyers legend Bobby Clarke, who put together a Hall of Fame career as a type-one diabetic.

"I just turned 13 and had a tournament out in Whitby and saw Bobby Clarke and he took, literally, 30 seconds out of his day and it changed my whole life," Domi recalled. "If I can do even a fraction of what he did for me for someone else in the world, I'm doing something right."


Lines at Friday's practice: 

Bertuzzi - Matthews - Holmberg 
McMann - Domi - Nylander 
Knies - Tavares - Robertson 
Dewar - Kampf - Gregor 

Brodie - McCabe 
Rielly - Timmins 
Edmundson - Liljegren 
Giordano, Benoit 


Power play units at Friday's practice: 


Rielly, Liljegren, Tavares, Matthews, Nylander 


McCabe, Robertson, Knies, Domi, Bertuzzi