The Maple Leafs are back in action tonight, playing the Nashville Predators here in Toronto with one of those rare 7:30 p.m. starts.

Yesterday’s practice brought news that defenceman TJ Brodie is out again with his continuing rib injury, but also there was a hint that Auston Matthews may be nursing an injury too.

Maple Leafs practice and injury report - Brodie out, but also Matthews?

Matthews skipped Tuesday’s practice with permission from coach Sheldon Keefe for a “maintenance day,” which is common enough during the season, with most players taking two or three over the many months when they get particularly nasty bumps and bruises.

However, this time the rumour mill switched to high-gear when it was also announced the Leafs had called up Bobby McMann from the Toronto Marlies, who also plays center like Matthews.

Keefe was tight-lipped about Matthews, saying only “we’ll see tomorrow” (meaning today) about whether or not he will play in the game. Of course, he often is cryptic about his lines before games until the mandated time he must post them immediately before a game, so for now have to wait and see what happens.

Our preview of tonight’s Leafs vs. Predators game will be out around lunch time.

As for McMann, he was never drafted to the NHL, instead rising up the ranks first through playing in the NCAA at Colgate University in Hamilton—the one in Upstate New York, not my hometown Hamilton on the other side of Lake Ontario—and then joining the Marlies in 2020. Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas took note of how good he was and signed him to an NHL entry contract last April. As Danielle Bain noted above, McMann has earned this chance to move up with a lot of grinding hard work for many years.

Maple Leafs sign Bobby McMann to a 2-year deal

McMann is now 26 years-old, and if he does appear in tonight’s game it would be his first in the NHL. He has been a workhorse for the Marlies, scoring 24 goals in 62 games last season, which was a franchise rookie record.

This season he is on pace for 0.5/GPG in the AHL, and was just selected by the AHL as their player of the week. We’ll likely learn if Matthews is in or out tonight after the morning skate, which means the news would break around noon today and will be in our preview of tonight’s game out around that time when the lines for the game are clarified. UPDATE: Matthews is confirmed out and McMann is in.

Meanwhile, the Marlies will play tonight too against the Manitoba Moose at the Coliseum at Exhibition Place for the first of two games against them; the second is on Saturday. These will be the final two home games for the Marlies before they sail off on their annual Boat Show Road-trip—when the Coliseum is literally turned into a mini-lake to sell boats. We’ll have more on that, and the literal cross-continent trip they will take later on this week.

Other News

Speaking of the Predators who are in town tonight; definitely getting waivers regret vibes on what they now see as a bad administrative error on their part putting 2017 first-round draft pick Eeli Tolvanen on waivers in December, and immediately losing him to the Seattle Kraken with no compensation back to them. He’s played six games for Seattle and already has three goals and two assists.

The Mystery of Anthony Mantha - Japers' Rink
Since being acquired in the trade that sent Jakub Vrana to Detroit nearly two years ago, Mantha has had an up-and-down tenure with the Caps that has included limited hot streaks, injuries, and, most recently, a demotion to the fourth line before being healthy-scratched. [SPECIES: I’m including this article because of the Leafs proximity; Matnha was drafted 20th overall in 2013, one selection before the Maple Leafs had their pick, which then-GM Brian Burke used on Frederik Gauthier.]

First Nations artists score big with beaded medallions and jersey design for Leafs - CBC
The Maple Leafs sported jerseys featuring a Woodland-style design and wore medallions made by a team of beaders from Wiikwemikoong during Indigenous Celebrations Day on Saturday. They sold out almost immediately.

Is it time to change how sports media cover on-field injuries? - Sports Media Watch
A guest article explores what needs to change in sports broadcasters' approach to covering athlete injuries during games.

Malloreddus Alla Campidanese Recipe
(Sardinian Ridged Pasta With Saffron and Pork Ragù) - Serious Eats
[SPECIES: Because it's cold and dark out, and you know that means you want to stuff your face with warm pasta in a meat sauce; this article gives you both the authentic Sardinian version and a version with substitute ingredients you are more likely to find in North American shops which come close to the taste of the original.]

One final note: yes that is a woman official on the ice in the far right of that header photo which was taken at Sunday’s Marlies game. It’s Kirsten Welsh, who was also the first woman to be an OHL on-ice official in 2021 and has quickly proven herself to a point she is moving up the ranks with an eye on the NHL in the not too distant future.

Catching up with Kirsten Welsh, the trailblazing hockey referee - Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette