After the Marlies game today, Sheldon Keefe updated everyone on the status of Timothy Liljegren who has missed a couple of Marlies games.
“Week-to-week with a high-ankle sprain,” is the not good news. The World Juniors begins in 16 days, and the tournament has an intense format, particularly in the opening week. That’s not a lot of time for Liljegren to recover.
Sweden is deepest at defence, but if Liljegren misses the tournament, he misses his last chance to compete as a junior and to avenge last year’s tough loss, and the team will miss him.
No one should be concerned with the Marlies rushing Liljegren too soon, despite Keefe’s comments that they and Team Sweden hope he will be available. The history of the Marlies with Liljegren has been one of almost excess caution. He’s not the linchpin of the Marlies, not yet, and they don’t put too much of a load on him, although his usage has increased this year.
There’s an interesting conversation with Keefe above about the positive effects on development he’s seen from WJC participation. He talks particularly about Kasperi Kapanen, who I remember as being not all that impressive in the AHL until after that golden goal and the playoffs that followed in the AHL.
With Liljegren out of action, the Marlies have called up a Growlers defender, Stefan Leblanc, but they haven’t played him yet. Update: they just sent him back to the ECHL. They have enough defence to carry on without any help until Rasmus Sandin leaves for the WJC, hopefully with Liljegren in tow, and then the Marlies will be down to seven defenders.
With the Leafs missing Zach Hyman for two games due to suspension, the obvious solution is to send down an extra defender for a while and call up a forward. The ever-present problem of waivers gets in the way of that scheme, however, as both defenders sitting in the Leafs press box require waivers. Both could more than plausibly be sent down to play with the Marlies on a conditioning loan, but that doesn’t enable a return trip up for a forward. It’s very possible the Leafs simply go with who they have for the first two games of their southern road trip while the Marlies make do with what they have for a time.