The Toronto Marlies had their third practice since returning home from Milwaukee today, and with tomorrow’s game quickly approaching, seem to be focused on closing things out sooner than later.
The in three consecutive years, the Marlies have finished the season as North Division champions, with 96 points in the standings. If they win on Thursday, they can add another mutual connection; a first round sweep. With 6-2 and 5-2 wins on the road, the odds seem in their favour to win this series, but the team knows better to not see it as
“We want to end this series as quickly as possible.” said Sam Carrick. “That’s the biggest thing. You want to be able to rest some guys for the next series. Milwaukee is a great team, and they can definitely come back in this series if we let them, but the biggest thing for us is playing our game, and not giving them a chance.” Kenny Ryan also shared the sentiment. “It’s one of those games where we know we can close it out, and we don’t want to take it into the weekend. We have to stay focused, and find a way to close this out. Hopefully we’ll be successful if we stick to our game plan.”
Carrick stressed that he was happy with the start. “It’s been great, high tempo. The guys have been really focused, even though we’re up 2-0 in the series now. We’re still treating every game like it’s do or die for us, and every game is huge.”
As for keeping everybody in check, coach Steve Spott had his blueprint to success laid out. “It’s meetings, it’s constant communication, it’s not taking things for granted and making sure our mindset is where it needs to be. We were sharp in practice over the past three days, so that tells me that the guys are in the right frame of mind.”
Back on Track
Injuries were a major concern at the close of the season and the start of the playoffs. After all, the team was missing their entire first line, and one of their top penalty killing defencemen. But alas, that ship is starting to sail. Carter Ashton, who was “banged up” at the end of his final Leafs stint, and Andrew MacWilliam, who was suffering from post-concussion symptoms, returned to practice in full contact jerseys today.
“Both guys are going to play tomorrow night, which is great” said Spott. “You add some more size, and some more physicality, which is going to help us against Milwaukee. They’re a big, strong hockey club. It’s nice to get some more energy and grit into the lineup.”
Also practicing in red, non-contact jerseys were Peter Holland and Spencer Abbott. Holland was also a Leafs injury, and Abbott is recovering from a shoulder injury. Spott had good news regarding them as well. “Game time decision tomorrow, so the nice thing for us is that we know they’re very close to be getting back in.”
Adding these guys back may be a bit of a shakeup to a team that has done well together over the course of this season, but Kenny Ryan feels it won’t be of any ill consequence. “We’ve dealt with that all year. Guys going up, coming down, in an out of the lineup, injuries, and what not, but its a credit to the depth of our team. Every guy is ready. We’ve shown that it doesn’t matter what our lineup is, we come and compete every night.”
Ultimately, he doesn’t see the current situation being any different. “At this point in the season, everybody has played with everybody. Everybody has played out of their comfort zone, out of their own position, and in playoff time, you have to do whatever is going to make the team successful.”
Here are tomorrow’s projected lines, assuming that Abbott and Holland don’t make it in.
Brandon Kozun – Trevor Smith – Jerry D’Amigo
Josh Leivo – Greg McKegg – Carter Ashton
David Broll – Sam Carrick – Kenny Ryan
Brad Ross – Jerred Smithson – Frazer McLaren
Andrew MacWilliam – Korbinian Holzer
TJ Brennan – Kevin Marshall
Petter Granberg – Stuart Percy
The Marlies had an additional mini-practice ahead of the main one for their recent additions. Frederik Gauthier, Connor Brown, Carter Verhaeghe, Fabrice Herzog, and Victor Loov were all on the ice. Joining them was defenceman Zachary Yuen, along with Garret Sparks to play the role of goaltender and Spencer Abbott to get some extra ice time in.
In the main practice as extras were Brad Staubitz, Jamie Devane, and Tyler Biggs. Dylan Yeo and Eric Knodel wore the normal defencemens black jerseys, but likely won’t play.
Puck drop for Game 3 is at 7PM at Ricoh Coliseum.