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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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Michael Hutchinson will make a second straight start for the Leafs on Wednesday night. Frederik Andersen remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. Sheldon Keefe was asked if the Andersen situation is overly concerning. 

"It doesn't look that way," the Leafs coach said. "From what I'm told, he's progressing well. We've had to go through the last little bit here without two of our goalies so that is concerning, but I think we're coming out on the other side of it soon."

On Tuesday, backup goalie Jack Campbell went through his first full team practice since sustaining a leg injury on Jan. 24. 

"We're trending towards him being available on this [next] road trip," Keefe said. "As to when he'd be available or when we would choose to use him, we haven't made any decisions there. He's progressing very well. Yesterday was an important day for him and he got through it very well."

Following tonight’s game, the Leafs will play five straight on the road, including one back-to-back set. 

The Flames are also dealing with an injury to their top goalie. Jacob Markstrom (upper body) was absent from the team's morning skate. 

"He's still day-to-day," said coach Geoff Ward. "We'll see how it goes through the rest of the day and if he can play he will. If he can't, you know, then it will be on to the next day. We're hopeful [it's] sooner rather than later."

David Rittich, who stopped all 34 shots faced on Monday, is projected to get the call again tonight. 

"He's got lots of confidence and deservedly so," said Keefe. "He was a big reason we were shut out and a big difference in the hockey game."

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The Leafs were minus four key players in Monday's 3-0 loss as forwards Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman joined defenceman Jake Muzzin and Andersen on the sideline. 

"I don't think that we handled it that great," defenceman Morgan Rielly said. "When we lost Auston [Matthews] for a game earlier this year, we did a great job playing without him [beating Edmonton 4-2 on Jan. 22] and I don't think we did that last game. It’s up to us, the people in the room, to take responsibility for that and make changes and make sure we don't allow that to happen again tonight."

Thornton will miss a second straight game with a lower-body ailment while Muzzin remains out with a facial fracture. But the Leafs are getting a boost as Hyman returns following a painful shot block on Saturday. He tested out his injured foot on the ice early this morning. 

Keefe confirmed that Hyman will play on the top line beside Matthews and Mitch Marner, who are coming off a rare quiet night. 

Monday marked the first time this season that the high-octane Leafs were held without a goal. Will their highly skilled players take it personally? 

"I hope so," Keefe said. "I hope they've got a little extra hunger around the net, a little extra hunger to get on the inside and make it harder on the goaltender."

With Hyman returning, Nic Petan will be a healthy scratch. 

The Flames, meanwhile, are looking to replicate their performance. 

"The guys paid attention to the details and I thought our effort away from the puck was good," Ward said.

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The timeline for Muzzin's return remains unclear. 

"He's a key player for us," Keefe said. "You don't replace these kind of guys. But it is an opportunity for everybody to step up. Everybody that plays underneath your top players, they always want more, they always feel they're capable of taking on more. You get a chance to show that, and we get a chance to expose some guys to that." 

Travis Dermott took Muzzin's spot alongside Justin Holl at the start of Monday's penalty-filled affair. The Leafs were outshot (2-5) and outscored (0-1) during the nine minutes and 52 seconds Dermott was on the ice at even strength, per NaturalStatTrick.

"I didn't get as many shifts with Travis as we would've liked [in order] to get a little rhythm going," Holl said, "but I thought we did a good enough job. We can certainly be better and we're looking to be better."

Dermott is only averaging 11 minutes and 35 seconds of ice time per game this year, but performed ably last season when the Leafs blueline was hit hard by injuries. 

"We know that this is something that he can do and do really well," Holl said. "I expect a lot from him, and I think we can be really good together."

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The Leafs have improved defensively going from 26th in goals allowed per game (3.2) last season to 10th (2.7) this year. Rielly believes better communication between players is a big reason why. 

"That's an area of the game that we spent a lot of time talking about," Rielly revealed, "both myself, personally, with the coaching staff as an area of improvement, and as a D core. We spent a lot of time on that at training camp."

The defencemen have communicated better with the goalies, which has allowed them to handle the puck more efficiently. And, overall, the breakouts are a lot cleaner.

"We’ve made strides," Rielly said, "and I still think there's room to get better."

Keefe likes that more lines of communication have been opened up in many areas. 

"I see communication off the ice in between periods or on practice days on the bench between drills," Keefe observed. "You see guys talking about what's been happening and what's going to happen next. You want guys talking, you want guys sorting out different situations. A lot of reads happen in hockey very quickly, so the more you can talk you help each other out. I think that has improved. I think it's a sign of just having an older team, a more experienced team this year.”

The addition of chatty veterans like Thornton, Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian has helped in this area, the coach noted. 

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The Flames snapped a three-game losing streak on Monday and Ward was asked if there was a sense of a relief around his club afterwards. 

"I don't know if there was relief," Ward said. "It's always good when you find that you're playing better, so that's the approach we’re taking. We feel like we won the hockey game because of things that we did and when you do that you build yourself in the proper direction. Relief is sort of something that I think there's almost a connotation that you got some luck involved. We need to build off of what we did. The things that we did led to an opportunity for us to win a game."

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After suiting up in just four of the first 13 games this season, Pierre Engvall seems to be carving out a more consistent role in the Leafs line-up. He slotted in as the third-line centre the last couple games.

"A big thing for me is being better at winning pucks back and using my body to my advantage,” the 6-foot-5 Swede said. "You start it in practice. You get in there and get used to it. It's something you got to get your head around and keep reminding yourself it’s something you need to get better on." 

Another adjustment is taking faceoffs with Engvall leaning on Jason Spezza and assistant coach Manny Malhotra for advice. 

"I work on it every day and I'm getting better and better on it. I've got better and better on the weak side."

Engvall has won 51.4 per cent of his draws so far this season. 

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Flames lines at Wednesday’s morning skate: 

F

Gaudreau - Monahan - Bennett
Tkachuk - Lindholm - Mangiapane
Lucic - Backlund - Dube
Nordstrom - Gawdin - Leivo

D

​Giordano - Andersson
Hanifin - Tanev
Valimaki - Kylington

G

Rittich 
Zagidulin