This week, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in California for games against the San Jose Sharks, LA Kings, and Anaheim Ducks this Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Leafs flew out on Sunday and had their first practice this afternoon in San Jose. Here is what we learned from that practice. There were a lot of updates.
Rasmus Sandin Scratched
During line rushes, we got initial reports that Timothy Liljegren was skating with injured defensemen Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci on the fourth pairing. But it was later corrected that he was skating regularly with Calle Rosen, with Rasmus Sandin on the outside looking in. Rosen was also on the second unit power play, in place of Sandin.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed these suspicions, stating that he doesn’t want to overtax his rookies as the team is picking up their pace down the stretch.
Rasmus Sandin comes out of the #leafs lineup tomorrow in San Jose. Timothy Liljegren draws back in.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 2, 2020
Sandin, 19, has played 37 games for the Toronto Marlies and Sweden in international competition this season. Sandin has played 26 games for the Leafs and averages 14 minutes per game in all situations. He played 19 minutes in the loss to Pittsburgh, which was his biggest game in terms of icetime. He’s played 15 and 16 minutes during the winning streak, but played 13 against Vancouver.
It looks to me like Keefe has found his limit for what his youngest player can do and is taking him off the gas in order to not burn him out. I think this is less conditioning and more protecting him. Plus, it’s about time to give Liljegren a game again. If there’s any team you can take your foot off the gas for, it’s the 27th ranked Sharks (famous last words).
Sheldon Keefe confirms that Liljegren is in tomorrow & Sandin will sit— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 2, 2020
Leafs coach admits he's wary of overtaxing rookies amid condensed schedule, playoff race
Rielly and Ceci Returning Soon
We also got an update on the Leafs first defense pair for the first third of the season. Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci are both expected back sometime next week. Both are on the road trip right now, but could return either at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning (Tuesday) or Nashville Predators (Thursday), or on the road against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci are on track to return at some point next week, according to Sheldon Keefe.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 2, 2020
The #leafs also believe Ilya Mikheyev will play again this season, although his timeline is a little longer than Rielly and Ceci.
Rielly has been out since mid-January when he “busted his foot” blocking a shot in a game against the Florida Panthers. He was initially projected to miss eight weeks from January 13th, but...wait, it’s March already? Okay, he’s projected to be back exactly on schedule.
As for Cody Ceci, he hasn’t played since February 5th when he suffered a high ankle sprain against the New York Rangers. It’ll likely be five weeks between when he got the injury and when he’s expected to return.
It’s only been a week since Jake Muzzin broke his hand. Three more weeks go.
I know both Rielly and Ceci are problematic defensemen in their own zone, but I think Justin Holl is begging for a rest right about now and having a couple guys eat up some top-pair minutes would really make things easier down the lineup. Marv, you are forever in our hearts.
Jack Campbell starting Tuesday
Last update we got was regarding the goaltending deployment this week. Jack Campbell is going to start on Tuesday against San Jose. The Leafs have a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday so expect him to get one of those games, too. The Kings and Ducks are 30th and 28th in the league so there’s no major opponent you’d like to prefer your starter get — although LA has been playing some good hockey lately.
Jack Campbell starts for Leafs tomorrow in San Jose— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 2, 2020