The Toronto Maple Leafs received almost the best news they could have expected on injured winger Zach Hyman, as an MRI on Monday revealed a sprained MCL from the knee-on-knee hit from Canucks defenseman Alex Edler.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that Hyman will miss a minimum of two weeks, and with more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, it is likely that the Leafs will have their best two-way winger back before the end of the regular season and in time for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"These kinds of things, you knew it involved the knee, so you never really know until you can get a picture of it. So we had to wait on that." Keefe said. "All things considered, if (Hyman) can get himself back in two weeks, that would be great news for us. These types of hits and that type of contact can have some pretty bad results. (Zach) can come back, strong, rested and ready to go for us, and our team will just press on. Of course we'll miss him, but other people will step up and that in itself will make us a stronger group here down the stretch."
The injury comes at an opportune time for Toronto, as recently acquired Nick Foligno completes his mandatory seven-day quarantine on Wednesday and will be eligible to play on Thursday in Winnipeg. With Hyman out, Foligno will get more of an opportunity to get accustomed to a top-six role and play with John Tavares or Auston Matthews, which could play off down the line in the postseason.
Another aspect of the injury that may payoff for the Leafs could be with the salary cap. If Toronto chooses to place Hyman on long-term injured reserve, it would clear the winger’s $2.25 million cap hit and give GM Kyle Dubas the ability to activate goalie Frederik Andersen before the end of the season to give him some game action before the playoffs.
The Leafs hope to bounce back from a frustrating 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver on Sunday in the finale of a two-game set against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. Toronto generated a number of scoring opportunities and 39 shots on Braden Holtby, but were only able to beat the veteran netminder twice.
The club will hold their pre-game skate mid-afternoon, so a number of lineup situations will not be clear until then. David Rittich could make the start in goal after a less-than-stellar performance by Jack Campbell on Sunday.
Keefe revealed on Monday that William Nylander was late for a team meeting and thus was an extra skater at practice and could be a healthy scratch for Tuesday. This is reminiscent of Keefe scratching of former Leaf Kasperi Kapanen last season for “internal accountability” after being late for practice.
Ilya Mikheyev’s status is also in question after leaving the ice on Monday for an unspecified reason. Hyman’s injury already leaves Toronto short-handed on the wing and if Nylander and Mikheyev are unavailable, it could mean moving Alex Kerfoot, Joe Thornton or Wayne Simmonds up in the lineup.
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