Sheldon Keefe stated earlier today that the Leafs had a number of game time decisions they were planning to make on banged up players heading into tonight’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks. This is interesting for a few reasons.
The main reason being that this is the Leafs final game before beginning their bye week heading into the All-Star break. That’s right, tonight is your last chance to see the Leafs until January 27th.
The decision would obviously allow some players the chance to heal up. With Rielly and Muzzin already out on the blueline, risking further extended absences seems like a bad idea, and the imagine of Travis Dermott shaking off a shot block against Calgary is still pretty fresh in my head. If the Leafs pull a defenseman out of the lineup it’s also a chance to see Timothy Liljegren in a Leafs uniform, which is something we should all be excited for.
It is likely a large number of the players who have been called up from the Marlies are about to spend the Leafs bye week in the AHL, and Liljegren will certainly be one of them, but he’s also the one who needs to make somewhat of a case for returning when the Leafs do.
As for the forward group, it’s hard to imagine much in the way of changes and it’s also important to point out the Leafs can’t be giving away games. The Leafs aren’t going to scratch anyone without reason, but I wouldn’t doubt any possible excuse for sitting will be entertained tonight.
The brings us to the big one. Scratching Andersen for injury reasons has an added benefit. If the Leafs do this he won’t have to play in the Allstar game next weekend and not only will Andersen get some rest tonight, but he’ll get to take next weekend off as well. As much as it’s an honour to be selected, it’s much more important he’s at 100% down the stretch and having seen the third highest number of shots in the league this season, he is justifiably tired.
That’s not a guarantee to Andersen returns and returns in November form, but it couldn’t hurt and it gives Hutchinson a bit more work before what could be a very long stretch of inaction for him, assuming the Leafs don’t replace him in the near future.
Seems like a reasonable idea to me, but I’m also a cynical jackass who places little value on the Allstar game. It will be interesting to see what the Leafs do, but considering they still need to win as many games as possible no one would blame them for going with Andersen.