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Injured Leafs still not ready to return;McElhinney wins NHL's 3rd Star

March 19, 2018, 4:24 PM ET [316 Comments]
Mike Augello
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After showing some optimism that his club would get some of their injured players back in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to put the brakes on the possibility of their return against the Lightning on Monday.

“I don’t know if Freddy (Andersen) is ready to go, I know Auston (Matthews) is not ready to go, (Leo) Komarov is not ready to go and (Nikita) Zaitsev is not ready to go.” Babcock said after team practice at the MasterCard Centre.

All four players will accompany the team on their two-game road swing taking on the top teams in the Eastern and Western Conference (Toronto plays in Nashville on Thursday), but Anderson is the only one expected to be dressed on Tuesday, either as the starter or backing up Curtis McElhinney, since the Leafs returned goaltender Garret Sparks to the Toronto Marlies.

Matthews will miss his 20th game on Tuesday due to three different injuries and the 20-year-old is anxious to get back in the lineup, but the Leafs know that the remaining 10 games hold little importance and him being 100% healthy will be key to their chances in the post-season.

“(It’s been) boring. I’ve just been skating, the first couple weeks by myself and now back working with the team, which has been a lot better.” Matthews said. “I felt good, just taking a few more bumps, (getting in) stick battles. (The shoulder) feels better, it’s definitely progressing.”

Zaitsev was in bed for five days with the flu, but is feeling much better and skated for the third day in a row on Monday.

Komarov was on the ice before the main group at the MasterCard Centre doing skating drills, which is consistent with his knee injury not being long term, but it is likely with the veteran’s important role as a checking winger that the Leafs will make sure he is fully recovered and not rush him back.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston indicated on Saturday Headlines that Komarov could be out up to two weeks, but that time frame is well in advance of the playoffs and has to be considered good news after how severe the injury appeared.



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To say that Curtis McElhinney ably filled in for the injured Frederik Andersen would be an understatement. The 34-year-old backup went 3-0-0 with a 1.57 goals-against average, .955 save percentage and one shutout last week and was named the Third Star of the Week by the NHL.

McElhinney relieved an injured Andersen last Wednesday and made 13 saves in a 6‑5 shootout victory over Dallas, stopped 38 shots in a 5-2 win over Buffalo in the second of back-to-back games and recorded his third shutout of the season against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. March 17.

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