Welcome to the first business day of January. My sympathies to all my fellow accountants, auditors, and operations people for whom this is the beginning of the longest working week you will have all year as you recon the last.

The Maple Leafs are back to work too, returning from their three game Central Division road trip with two wins, leaving them second place in the NHL Atlantic Division with a 23-8-6 record, and on pace for a 100+ point season.

Tonight, they face the St. Louis Blues again who they narrowly beat in OT one week ago, but it sounds like the Leafs will have an unexpected advantage due to injuries on their team.

Beyond tonight’s game, the Leafs schedule for the week ahead mostly keeps them in town, hosting the Seattle Kraken on Thursday, and then the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. The Leafs then head out for a rare Sunday game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

We’ll have our preview of tonight’s game out around noon, but for now, there is one minor lineup change between the Leafs and Marlies:

Here are further comments from Sheldon Keefe after yesterday’s practice, and how the 5FPP may be here to stay, plus more on Rielly, Anderson, and Nylander at the link:

Sheldon Keefe Post-Practice Interview Transcript - MLHS
“Do you expect to put Morgan Rielly back with the top unit on the power play?”
Keefe: “We will see. When we went to five forwards, I said I don’t see it as a long-term solution, but I have been happy with what we have seen from it. I think we owe it the opportunity to let it grow and really see it rather than overreacting to one thing that might go wrong or might not look good. We need to give it a little bit more time if we are serious about it — and we are serious about it. We have seen enough progress to let it breathe a little bit. All of that said, if you look just the other night for example, if we had a power play in the third period, Morgan would have been there. With a lead, we would’ve gone with one defenseman. We will see a little bit of that along the way.”

The Toronto Marlies with Joey Anderson will be in action at home for several games in the next two weeks, starting tonight hosting the Utica Comets, then the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (the Pokemon team!) on Saturday, and the Laval Rocket on Sunday.

Other News

Everyone is talking about Connor Bedard and this OT goal which secured Canada a place in the semi-finals, though it should be noted Slovakia was on the cusp of a major upset here and Team Canada wasn’t supposed to have to rely on a Hail Mary goal like this to advance.

It’s a day off for all remaining teams today with the semi-finals starting tomorrow; Canada will play the USA, while Sweden will face the Czech Republic. Austria and Latvia will continue a best-of-three relegation series; Latvia won the first game. The medal games are scheduled for Thursday.

Speaking of future stars, the next may come from the Yukon:

2023 starts big for Yukon teen hockey player Gavin McKenna - CBC
Yukon’s Gavin McKenna, 15, and his South Alberta Hockey Academy team on Sunday won the championship game at Calgary’s Circle K Classic tournament, and McKenna also took home two other awards.

Hockey Playing Moms: Parenting from the bench and ice - Hockey in Society
Parents predominantly bring their kids to the rink because they lack other childcare options. For those with partners who work shift work, it means that sometimes they will have to bring their kids to the rink. It would be really easy for parents without childcare (and in particular moms) to say, “No childcare = No hockey for me this week.” But these moms have made a different choice. They have found a way to nurture their love of hockey while also taking care of the kids.

Over in San Jose, there’s been some stick problems. I bet James Reimer would have stopped this. ISBIJR!

The NHL Winter Classic was at Fenway Park in Boston yesterday, with the Boston Bruins winning 2-1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Next season’s game will be in Seattle, where the Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights.