LeBrun: Hyman injury news pretty good considering the other options
TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who held a practice in Vancouver on Monday afternoon of ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Canucks.
Nick Foligno will help the Leafs fill the void with versatile winger Zach Hyman sidelined with a sprained MCL for at least the next two weeks.
"Certainly, it will give us a boost at a time when you lose a significant piece to your team," said head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Foligno is currently quarantining at his family home in Sudbury, Ont., where he has access to a gym and sport court. If everything goes to plan, he will join fellow deadline pick-ups Ben Hutton and Stefan Noesen and fly to Winnipeg on Wednesday.
During an interview on The Chirp with Daren Millard podcast, Foligno said he's hoping to make his Leafs debut on Thursday.
"I'm here to play for them and get this thing rolling so I'd probably prefer to jump right into it and get going," Foligno told Millard.
Hyman is second on the Leafs roster in goals with 15 and leads the forward group in hits. The 28-year-old can drive his own line, as was the case Sunday when he played with Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot, or bolster the big boys in the top six. Only Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have averaged more ice time up front this season.
"The elements that he brings to our team, you can't replace that," captain John Tavares said after Sunday's game.
"A leader on the ice and off the ice," added William Nylander. "The way he cares for other guys is incredible."
The 33-year-old Foligno may be an older model, but the former Blue Jackets captain brings a lot of Hyman-esque qualities.
"He plays a hard style of hockey," said Jason Spezza, who once lined up beside Foligno in Ottawa. "He's got really underrated puck skills. I think people who don't know his game well will be surprised by how good he is with the puck. I think that will lend well to fitting in with our group. And he's just a guy, like Hyms, that plays with emotion, goes to the hard areas, does a lot of things that are really good and really important this time of year. I think he's going to fit in seamlessly."
The Leafs have lost four straight (0-2-2) for the first time this season and now must play without Hyman for at least the next six games.
"We have played without important people throughout the season and have played some of our best hockey when we have been missing guys," said Keefe. "We have to give Hyms time to get healthy. We know he will come back strong. Our team shouldn't miss a beat."
Hyman sustained the injury on a knee-on-knee hit by Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler, who was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct. On Monday, the NHL suspended Edler two games.
Hyman tore the ACL in his right knee, the same one he hurt on Sunday, during the 2019 playoffs and needed off-season surgery so Monday's diagnosis was actually considered a positive development.
"If he can get himself back in two weeks, that would be great news for us," Keefe said. "With these type of hits and that type of a contact, it can have some pretty bad results. We will take it. Hyms will come back strong, rested and ready to go for us. Our team will just press on. Of course, we will miss him, but other people will step up. That in and of itself will make us a stronger group down the stretch."
The Leafs split two games Hyman missed earlier this season due to a foot injury.
Nylander played well in his first game out of quarantine, producing a goal and an assist on Sunday night while logging 21 minutes, his second highest total of the season.
"I felt pretty good, actually," he said.
"It was pretty seamless," agreed Tavares. "He looked very comfortable making plays, feeling time and space out really well, which is hard to do when you've missed a bunch of time."
But now Nylander may miss another game. At Monday's practice, the 24-year-old winger was wearing a grey sweater usually reserved for scratches and members of the taxi squad.
"It is simple with Will," Keefe revealed. "He was late for a meeting here this morning. His status was that he was not going to play tomorrow. We had him on the outside today for practice. We are going to discuss it and reassess it for tomorrow night's game. It was just as simple as him missing a meeting."
Nylander ended up skating on his normal line with Tavares after Mikheyev left practice with an undisclosed issue. The Russian winger is listed as questionable for Tuesday's rematch against the Canucks.
Nylander was part of the penalty kill during special teams reps with Nick Robertson taking his spot on the top power-play unit.
Pierre Engvall and Adam Brooks skated in regular sweaters after being scratches on Sunday.
At the end of practice, Frederik Andersen took the ice and was welcomed with a chorus of stick taps. It was the first time Toronto's longtime starting goalie was on the ice with teammates since March 19.
"The guys were really excited to have him out there today," said Keefe. "I think everybody wanted to make sure they got a shot on him before they left the ice. That was cool to see ... It is really big to have him out there. He has been making a lot of great steps."
Andersen has been dealing with a nagging lower-body injury. There is still no timeline for his return to game action.
"Most importantly, we are seeing progress," said Keefe. "Things are obviously moving in a very good direction."
Jack Campbell allowed three goals on 24 shots in Sunday's loss, which was his third straight defeat.
“It's a little bit of a slump for us and myself personally," he admitted afterwards. "I felt a little bit better."
Campbell was pulled in his previous start after allowing three goals on six shots on Thursday against the Jets.
After an incredible 11-0-0 run to open the season, Campbell has an .872 save percentage in his last six games.
"We believe in Jack and this is part of his process in playing more and having some increased expectations that come with having such a remarkable run he put together," Keefe said. "He did that. He earned that. He played that way. Because of that, our group has confidence in him. He should have confidence in himself. We just have to continue to work with him and help him through this to find that balance that every goaltender is looking for."
One positive with Campbell is he seems to be holding up well physically. The Leafs have been monitoring his workload since the 29-year-old returned from a leg injury on March 20.
"Seems like he's doing well there, but obviously it's something you've got to continue to be smart with," Keefe said before Sunday’s game. "It really hasn't slowed him up here much at all of late. The medical staff, of course, will do their thing to be on top of it, but seems like he's on the other side."
After missing Thursday's game, Matthews returned to the Leafs lineup and potted his league-leading 33rd goal of the season on Sunday.
"The wrist flared up on me pretty bad at the end of the Montreal game [on April 12] and it wasn’t doing much better against Calgary at home [on Tuesday] so just decided to take the game [off] and get some work on it and kind of let the inflammation and everything settle down," Matthews explained. "It's much better now and it felt pretty good."
Matthews fired seven shots on net against the Canucks, which was one off his season high.
"You've got to tip your hat to the goalie," the centre noted. "[Braden] Holtby played unreal. He made some unbelievable saves and he stood on his head for them. Obviously, there's a lot we can take away and improve on and clean up but their goalie made some pretty good saves."
Joe Thornton isn't interested in load management.
"I feel great," the 41-year-old said. "I feel like on a buzzing metre from like one to 10, I think I'm like a 10 and a half. I feel great right now so I just want to keep this going."
Thornton only has one assist in the last 21 games, but the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder nicknamed 'Jumbo' is finding other ways to influence games. Thornton is tied with Wayne Simmonds for the team lead in hits (13) over the last four games.
"I'm just feeling comfortable," said Thornton. "The last probably two weeks I kind of feel I know my role now and I feel really good. I got great legs. It's just, this time of year, you got to get excited. The sun starts coming out and I feel really good. I just know my game and I know how I can be effective now and I can't wait for things to come."
Thornton started the year skating with Matthews and Marner on the top line and played with the top power-play unit, but has found himself on the fourth line and second power-play unit of late.
"Joe has really adjusted his game," noted Keefe prior to puck drop on Sunday. "I think he has been our most physical forward in our last few games and he's making really good and efficient, simple plays with the puck and advancing it. I've been happy with that."
"He's a huge body," said Spezza. "There's not many guys that size anymore and he's a guy who uses his frame well. I think he plays really well when he has that physicality, especially in terms of protecting the puck. I thought he protected the puck really well last night and gave us time to get open as his linemates."
Keefe acknowledged he'd like to get more offensive production from Thornton and Simmonds, who has one goal and two assists in 15 games since returning from a broken wrist.
"You'd want to see a little bit more, but a lot of their production as well is directly linked to the power play and the power play hasn't been going very well for anybody," Keefe noted. "When that's not happening, it tends to leak into your five-on-five game as well."
Despite scoring on the man advantage on Sunday, the Leafs are still only 2-for-46 over the last 18 games dating back to March 10.
Lines at Monday's practice:
Galchenyuk - Matthews - Marner
Nylander - Tavares - Kerfoot
Robertson - Brooks - Spezza
Thornton - Engvall - Simmonds
Rielly - Holl
Muzzin - Brodie
Sandin - Bogosian
Dermott - Liljegren
Power-play units at Monday's practice:
Matthews - Tavares - Robertson
Galchenyuk - Thornton - Spezza