Leafs fans have been more than happy to give Garret Sparks as much ice time as he wants until he proves undeserving, and after Jonathan Bernier’s less-than-stellar last start, Mike Babcock was more than happy to give him a shot. In a twist of fate that screams “typical Toronto”, however, the 22-year-old left tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks with a lower body injury.
Patrick Marleau’s goal to put the Sharks up 2-0. Sparks heads to the dressing room. pic.twitter.com/p9gychEYEK
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) December 18, 2015
Sparks immediately left the crease after this goal and skated straight to the bench, signaling for Jonathan Bernier to come into the game. As you can see, Sparks immediately readjusts after going down to the butterfly, signaling some discomfort.
Sparks suffered three groin pulls last season, as he detailed in his own words in February:
I’m one of the lucky ones. I can sit on my goal line with my toes on each post and pads along the goal line with about an 8” gap between my legs and complete a crossword puzzle in that position. It doesn’t affect me in the slightest. But most people aren’t that lucky, and I’ve done a lot of work to be as flexible as I am today. That gift has also been a curse, to the tune of three groin pulls this season, each caused by super-flexible limbs and a lack of core strength to reel those limbs back in. Groin pulls are a different animal from labrum tears, but they’re still just as prevalent in goaltending. They are both injuries of wear and tear, a result of the same processes being repeated by the body until it’s no longer able to compensate. After all, this is not a movement our body is not naturally equipped to handle hundreds of thousands of times in repetition. After the third injury, I decided something had to give, and made some changes. [READ MORE]
We can’t confirm that this is a groin injury at this time, but with all things considered, that would be the safe assumption. Sparks’ first groin injury last year was the catalyst for his long-term assignment to the Orlando Solar Bears.
This wasn’t Sparks’ first brush with fate tonight. During warmups, he took a Nazem Kadri wrist shot to the neck, sending him to his knees in pain, though it wasn’t enough to take him out of the game.
Sparks stopped 13 of 15 shots before leaving the game, with both goals against coming on the powerplay. Heading into the second period, Bernier has stopped all six shots against.