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THE LATEST ON NICK ROBERTSON'S INJURY, MAPLE LEAFS' ROSTER DECISIONS, LEHTONEN'S NHL DEBUT

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had mixed results through the team's first three games of the season, with a thrilling comeback win over the Habs on opening night, a disappointing loss to the underdog Sens on Friday, following that up with a dominant win over the Sens in the rematch on Saturday - though the 3-2 final score didn't reflect the game as much as the 40-19 shot differential.

As we enter the second week of play, the Leafs have had to make some interesting roster moves to accommodate their needs, mostly financial, following the knee injury to Nick Robertson in Saturday's matchup against the Sens, placing both Aaron Dell and Jason Spezza on waivers on Sunday, with the latter announcing he would retire from professional hockey if claimed.

The prognosis on Robertson, who went into the boards awkwardly, appearing to tweak his right knee following a hit by Senators forward Drake Batherson, is better than originally expected. Originally, what was thought to be a longer-term injury is one that will only keep Robertson out of action for around four weeks. The loss is still significant, but not as bad as it seemed on Saturday, which is fantastic news for the Leafs, who are hoping that Robertson can play an important role for the club and provide some secondary scoring in the team's bottom-six in his rookie campaign.

The Leafs took to the ice Monday morning, in advance of their Monday night matchup, playing host the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Arena with Spezza in attendance, skating in his usual spot on the team's fourth line. With the veteran forward clearing waivers, he is expected to resume his duties as the Leafs' 4th line center. Dell had also attended the morning skate, though he was claimed shortly thereafter by the New Jersey Devils.

The Leafs called up depth forward Pierre Engvall on Sunday, and while many had thought that Engvall was earmarked for a spot in the lineup, his subsequent reassignment to the taxi squad has all but ruled that possibility out. Instead, Adam Brooks skated for the injured Nick Robertson's spot on the 4th line, alongside Spezza and Simmonds - though it appears as though he will not play on Monday.

Instead, the Leafs will dress 7 defensemen, and KHL standout Mikko Lehtonen will make his much anticipated NHL debut against the Jets. It's difficult to predict what his role may be on Monday as the 7th defenseman - whether he sees action in a regular rotation, or only in specialized situations, such as offensive zone starts or on the power play. Given the fact that the Leafs' coaching staff have identified some weaknesses in his game transitioning over from the larger ice surface to the smaller rink and faster pace of the NHL, it is likely that his role will be sheltered to start off.

What likely sparked the most interest among Leafs fans leading to Monday's matchup against the Jets is what the Leafs plan to do in net, with No. 2 Jack Campbell having looked solid in his first appearance on Saturday, while Frederik Andersen looked somewhat shaky in each of his first two starts on Wednesday and Friday. Well, apparently Andersen is in line to get the nod on Monday, taking up mantle in the starter's crease at the morning skate.



Starting Andersen is the right call here, in my opinion. Though Campbell played well, picking up the win in the 2nd half of a back-to-back, Andersen needs the benefit of the doubt in that not only was he trying to shake off the rust of a long layoff with no exhibition schedule to fine-tune, but the team in front of him was doing the same and looked a lot more dialed in for game three. With Andersen being the clear cut starter, the Leafs are right to turn back to him for game number four to try and get him going.

It was a tense few days for the Buds. Now, with some clarity, they can focus on the task at hand - hopefully dispatching the Winnipeg Jets this evening.







MIKE ARMENTI
JANUARY 18, 2021  (11H14)
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