Today, the Leafs announced that Jake Gardiner would not play in the Wednesday game vs the Edmonton Oilers and will be out week-to-week with a back injury.
Jake Gardiner will not play tonight. He is week-to-week with a back injury. #LeafsForever— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 27, 2019
UPDATE: Now he’s got company on the week-to-week list:
Babcock says Dermott is week-to-week. Holl and Marincin will play tomorrow in NYI— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 28, 2019
So, so much for that stepping up and filling the void plan discussed below. Calle Rosen is out with a minor injury right now on the Marlies, Andreas Borgman is also hurt, and he has had no luck but bad this season for injuries.
No one believes that Rasmus Sandin or Timothy Liljegren are really ready, so we should expect to see Rosen in the NHL again before anything more drastic happens.
UPDATE THE SECOND:
Maple Leafs defenceman Travis Dermott is expected to miss at least four weeks with a shoulder injury. #LeafsForever— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 28, 2019
Gardiner missed two games earlier in the season with what was reported as back spasms, but since that time, he has skipped a few practices, and his ice time has declined dramatically.
This is all-situations ice time, so the totals are driven in part by power play time. But Gardiner has stopped playing the most every night at five-on-five, and in fact, there have been several games where those minutes were shared out very evenly amongst the six defenders.
At the same time Morgan Rielly has been playing a greater share of the time, and Ron Hainsey has been playing much less on the PK as he gets some more five-on-five time as Jake Muzzin was being worked into the lineup. What was seen as experimentation and a total devotion to keeping Muzzin on the left side, could very well have been attempts to rest Gardiner and Hainsey.
We can now expect that experimentation to stop, and for Muzzin to play a lot more. Travis Dermott will likely remain on the third pair on the lineup card, to the consternation of many, but he is the man who has to rise to the occasion, and if he plays like he can, he’ll take some of Hainsey’s time.
As far as the second power play goes, we should expect to see Muzzin there tonight. It’s not his best event, however, and the Leafs may consider something different as they move through the last 19 games of the season. That something might be playing the first unit a great deal more than they have been. Lately the split has dropped closer to even, but before William Nylander was on the roster, it was about 60/40 first unit to second.
Muzzin and Rielly have been playing some penalty kill minutes lately, and if that continues, they’ll be playing an alarming amount per game.
The other options for defence beyond Ozhiganov are Justin Holl from the press box and Martin Marincin from the Marlies. Calle Rosen has a minor injury at the moment.