Murray undergoing testing on ankle injury; Samsonov starts Sunday
The Maple Leafs practised at the Ford Performance Centre in Toronto on Saturday.
Matt Murray is undergoing testing to determine the extent of an ankle injury, which forced him to miss Friday's scheduled start.
"It's something he's been dealing with for a while and [it] had settled," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "He'd been going through his workouts fine, but it flared up on him a little and he didn't feel comfortable playing. The medical team held him out."
Ilya Samsonov did not take part in Saturday's practice in order to rest up. On Sunday, he'll play for the seventh time in 13 days when the Leafs host the Washington Capitals.
"We tried to get him a day off yesterday," Keefe said. "It didn't work out that way. We tried to manage it with a day off today. From his perspective, he would like to play every day. I don't think it is a big deal that way. It is important or us to manage it as best as we can but, given the circumstances, we are going to get him right back in there."
The Toronto Marlies are currently on a road trip and no one was called up for Saturday's practice. Joseph Woll is 12-1-0 with a .928 save percentage in the American Hockey League and appears to be the leading candidate for a promotion. Erik Kallgren, who played 10 games for the Leafs earlier this season, is also available.
"We are trying to get as much information on Matt's situation as we can before we make the corresponding move that may come with it," Keefe said.
Murray watched Friday's game from the bench, but Keefe said the 28-year-old was not available even if Samsonov got hurt.
Samsonov allowed six goals on 34 shots against the Ottawa Senators in suffering his first regulation loss at home this season.
Murray led the Leafs onto the ice for warm-ups on Friday and appeared set to play for the first time since being pulled on Jan. 17. Keefe noted the last-minute change put Samsonov "in a terrible spot" and the team didn't take care of him over the final 40 minutes.
"You can't lose like that on home ice," the coach said. "You can't have a goalie who has been giving us absolutely everything, comes in in a tough spot, and you have a performance like that in front of him in the second and third periods. You can't have that."
The dressing room didn't open immediately after the game as the players took a few minutes to talk through what happened.
"A little spontaneous," said centre John Tavares of the discussion. "Just to recognize we weren't happy with our game ... Just important things that guys felt needed to be pointed out."
"Guys sat there and we talked," said right winger Joey Anderson, who scored his second goal of the season in the loss. "Gotta dig deep and find a way to come back in these games and make a push. It wasn't good enough especially in the third period. We needed a response and we didn't get it."
The Leafs allowed six goals for just the second time this season and for the first time at Scotiabank Arena. It was only the second time the Leafs lost a game by four goals, which is their largest margin of defeat this year.
"You can look at the effort to a certain extent," admitted defenceman Morgan Rielly. "You can look at execution, turnovers. There's lot of things we didn't do well."
"We took our foot off the gas," said winger William Nylander. "That's unacceptable."
"Just not good enough from anyone," said winger Mitch Marner. "Too many Grade A chances against our net. Not competitive enough."
It was suggested to Tavares that the effort was the exception and not the rule for this team. The captain wasn't in the mood to make excuses.
"Well, you have to go out there and prove that every night," Tavares stressed. "We've done lots of good things and we've obviously put some really good stretches of hockey [together]. You face some adversity at times and you have to respond to it. We've built a good team identity but you have to go out there and earn that and prove that every night and we have to do a better job of that."
The Leafs are 4-3-1 since Jan. 12.
"In general, our game has been a little bit up and down at times over the last couple weeks here," Tavares pointed out. "So, we got to keep pushing and striving to go out and prove it and build upon the good things we've done."
After practice, the Leafs hosted their annual Easter Seals Kids skate. Players signed autographs, posed for pictures and even answered some uncomfortable questions.
"Got some interesting questions," Rielly revealed with a grin. "Mostly about when I'm going to score. So, harder-hitting questions than you guys ask sometimes."
Rielly has yet to score despite firing 66 shots on net in 35 games this season. So, what did he tell the kids? When is he going to score?
"Tomorrow night, obviously," the longest-serving Leaf said.
Rielly scored 10 goals last season with his first coming on Nov. 13 (16th game). Keefe doesn't feel like the drought is getting to the power-play quarterback.
"I haven't spoken with him about that specifically," Keefe said before Friday's game. "He doesn't give me that sense in terms of how he's walking around the facility or how his mood is or in the energy that he's bringing to games. It's natural, though, that you want one to fall."
Rielly has one goal in 24 career games against the Capitals.
"You can't help but be happy and leave here with a good feeling," he beamed on Saturday afternoon. "As players, we're very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the community and to contribute to days like today and causes like Easter Seals."
T.J. Brodie took part in a full practice in a regular sweater for the first time since sustaining a rib injury earlier this month. He skated on the top pair with Rielly and wants to play on Sunday.
"Ultimately, it's not up to me, but I'd like to," the 32-year-old confirmed. "Felt good. It's just a matter of seeing how it feels the rest of the day and then tomorrow."
"We will get the final word from him and the medical team later today or in the morning," said Keefe. "Obviously, he increases our depth greatly and is a vital piece of our defence core. It slots everybody else in well. It allows us to spread out the minutes. He will be a welcome addition."
Brodie sustained the injury on Jan. 7 in a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
"I don't know if it was an elbow or a butt end, what it was, but I thought it only knocked the wind out of me," said the Chatham, Ont. native. "I never had a rib issue. It's more annoying than anything, breathing and stuff like that, catching your breath."
This is the second injury absence for Brodie this season. He hurt his oblique on Nov. 11 and missed 12 games before returning on Dec. 8.
"Coming back from the last one, I felt pretty good physically and to play a couple games and then have it happen again or be back out again, it's tough," he said. "Yeah, it's definitely not fun. This is probably the most of games I've missed in my career so it's new to me and definitely something you don't want to be doing."
Brodie had played played 181 straight games before the oblique issue.
With the Auston Matthews injury creating a top-six opening, Pontus Holmberg started Friday's game as Toronto's second-line centre.
"Six minutes in penalties is too much," Keefe stated bluntly when asked about Holmberg's audition.
Holmberg took a double minor for high sticking Jake Sanderson in the first period. The 23-year-old rookie was also whistled for tripping Claude Giroux in the second period. The Senators scored the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play.
Alex Kerfoot replaced Holmberg between Calle Jarnkrok and Nylander in the third period and remained in that spot at Saturday's practice.
"I actually thought it was one of Alex Kerfoot's better games in a while," Keefe said. "Going into the third, I thought we could maybe change it up a little bit and give Alex a chance to help us dig out of a hole. It didn't work out that way but I still think, as we go into playing two teams such as Washington and Boston before the break, a little more experience in the top six would serve us well."
Kerfoot has hit the scoresheet in four of the last six games.
Holmberg skated between Zach Aston-Reese and Wayne Simmonds at practice.
"That still doesn't change how we feel about Pontus and his ability to take on a little bit more as he gains more experience in the league," Keefe concluded.
Tavares expects to have between 60 and 70 friends and family members at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday as he suits up in game No. 1,000 in his NHL career.
"Probably the most I've had in my career," the 32-year-old said of the guest list. "Thrilled about it. Excited about it."
"His teammates are going to try and make him feel special in the morning," said Rielly. "We got something cooking."
Often laser focused, Tavares has acknowledged this will be an emotional time.
"It's a tremendous honour," the Mississauga, Ont. native said. "It's just hard to put into words, I'm not going to lie. Just have a lot of gratitude. Very grateful for the opportunity and so many people who have helped me get here ... A lot of hard work, a lot of perseverance and just a lot of fun as well. You love to play this game as a kid and dream about playing in the NHL and to think you get to do it for the 1,000th time is pretty remarkable. I don't take that for granted or lightly."
"He has many more games ahead," Keefe said, "but certainly, for a day, pause and think about what you've been through to get to this point. To play one game in the NHL is something, but to play 1,000 at the level he has is pretty remarkable."
Tavares hits the milestone with his game in a good spot. He's fired 22 shots on net over the last three outings.
"Hopefully we'll go out and get a win for him," Rielly said.
"Getting the two points is what's most important," Tavares said.
With no goalies within the organization available for practice, a couple fill-ins took the ice on Saturday. Former Marlie Andrew D'Agostini, who is often used by the Leafs as a third goalie at practice to spell the regulars, was joined by Mount Royal University product Demaine Wray.
"It allows us to still have a functional practice," said Keefe. "It gives you some convenience, actually, because you're not so much worried about overwhelming them with shots or traffic or anything like that. You just keep things moving."
Lines at Saturday's practice:
Bunting - Tavares - Marner
Jarnkrok - Kerfoot - Nylander
Engvall - Kampf - Anderson
Aston-Reese - Holmberg - Simmonds
Rielly - Brodie
Giordano - Holl
Sandin - Liljegren
Benn - Timmins