One day after an incident at practice forced him to depart early, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner participated in the team’s optional skate at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
“It’s was a positive morning for Mitch and the skate went well so we’re encouraged by that,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He will be a game-time decision tonight.”
Marner left Tuesday’s practice early when he suffered what was described by Keefe as a ‘glancing blow’ by teammate Wayne Simmonds.
His presence on the ice on Wednesday is a positive sign that he may suit up against the Montreal Canadiens in the season opener at Scotiabank Arena, but the team will take every precaution necessary.
If Marner does play, he’ll skate on the top line with newcomer Nick Ritchie and John Tavares, who is filling in for Auston Matthews.
Matthews will miss the first three games of the regular season as he continues to recover from off-season wrist surgery.
Mikheyev has successful surgery
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ilya Mikheyev had successful surgery to repair a broke thumb, Keefe disclosed on Wednesday.
Mikheyev was injured in the first period of the team’s final preseason game on Saturday when he fell awkwardly after a cross-check by Ottawa Senators defenseman Dillon Heatherington.
Mikheyev is expected to be out a minimum of eight weeks and was placed on long-term injured reserve to start the season.
Opening night in front of fans
Tonight’s game at Scotiabank Arena marks a return to normal as a sold-out capacity crowd is expected to be on hand for the first time since Mar. 10, 2020. The Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut the doors on the remaining portion of the regular season.
While the Leafs have suffered a pair of disappointing playoff defeats since then, tonight marks a new feeling for the players.
“Guys have their parents in town for the first time in a long time,” Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said.
Scarborough native Wayne Simmonds is in his second year with the Maple Leafs, but will actually play in front of a packed crowd for the first time on Wednesday.
Betting on the core
Following a disappointing first-round exit to the Canadiens, Maple Leafs management elected to keep their core group of players together.
It was a vote of confidence that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas hopes will have trickle-down effect on the players.
“[He] could have made a lot of people happy by trading someone and doing something, but he believes in this group,” Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “And it’s on us to go out and show him that we are who he thinks we are.”
Projected Leafs lines vs. Canadiens
Nick Ritchie – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Michael Bunting – Alex Kerfoot – William Nylander
Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Ondrej Kase
Michael Amadio – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin – Travis Dermott