The Toronto Maple Leafs return to action on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars hoping to continue their recent success on the road, but will have to do that without defenseman Morgan Rielly for at least another game.
Rielly participated fully in practice on Monday after missing five games prior to the All-Star break, but the blueliner’s lower body injury is still not ready to stand up to playing 20+ minutes on the top pairing.
“It can be a test of (your) patience sometimes, but the most important thing is that you’re doing everything you can to get healthy and when that time comes, you’ll know.” Rielly said on Tuesday. “We got a lot of games coming up in the next two months, you want to be healthy for the whole thing and not be in and out (of the lineup).
Veteran Matt Hunwick, who skated with Frank Corrado at practice on Monday will replace Rielly in the lineup, but it is uncertain whether he will pair up with rookie Nikita Zaitsev or take his usual spot on the bottom pairing with Roman Polak.
“Next man up,” head coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate. “Whosever ready is supposed to be prepared to do a good job and help us win.”
Congratulations to former Leaf goaltender James Reimer and his wife April, on the birth of their daughter.
Frederik Andersen will get the start in Dallas. The Leafs goaltender was named NHL Third Star of the week after shutouts over Calgary and Detroit last week and has not allowed a goal in 126:11.
Kari Lehtonen (10-13-0, 2.80 GAA and .902 save percentage) will be between the pipes for Dallas, who also get forward Radek Faksa back in the lineup.
Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello, Asst. GM Mark Hunter and a large contingent of the Maple Leafs scouting staff took in the CHL Top Prospects game in Quebec City on Monday.
Unlike the last two seasons, when Toronto was a virtual certainty to select in the top five, this year the Leafs (barring another lottery win) could pick anywhere from high single digits to the 20s depending on if they make the postseason.
Based on their depth at forward, it is expected that Hunter and the club’s scouting staff were paying particular attention to defensive prospects on Monday.
On Bob McKenzie’s mid-season projections for the 2017 NHL Draft, Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegrin is expected to be the first off the board this June in Chicago, but his bout of mononucleosis cast some doubt whether he will be selected in the top five.
Names that could be on Toronto’s radar in the first that played in Quebec City are Tri-City’s Jusso Valimaki, Kelowna’s Cal Foote(son of Adam), Mississauga’s Nicholas Hague, S-S Marie’s Conor Timmins and Portland’s Henri Jokiharju.
Others who are possible first round targets Cale Makar of the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits and Finnish defensemen Miro Heiskanen and Urho Vaakanainen.