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Marlies Update: A hectic weekend, an ATO, and looking ahead

Lost in all the hysteria of the Leafs’ playoff-clinching weekend was that the Toronto Marlies are in the thick of their season-ending stretch right now. We didn’t really touch base very much with the kids at Ricoh this weekend, so here’s a bit of what you missed.

One for Three

Toronto played its last three-in-three of the season this weekend, and ultimately only ended up picking up two points in the midst of a race for the top of the North Division.

Friday’s game saw them give up goals in all three periods against the Utica Comets, losing their form in the second period and pressing back to no avail in the third. Garret Sparks stopped 19 of 21 shots against him, but couldn’t fend off powerplay chances from Joseph LaBate and Cody Kunyk in the first half of the game. Mike Sislo picked up his thirteenth of the year, but that was Toronto’s only goal in a 3-1 loss, capped off by an empty netter.

Saturday’s defeat was even tougher to swallow. Facing the Hershey Bears, who eliminated the Blue and White in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Marlies equalized a game they had spent twenty minutes trailing in with just four and a half minutes in the game, thanks to Sergey Kalinin’s second goal with the club. That went to waste, though, as Chandler Stephenson scored the game-winner with nine seconds left in regulation.

Toronto were able to end the weekend on a high note, though, beating the Rochester Americans 4-3 on Fan Appreciation Night. The Amerks picked up the first two goals in this game just 93 seconds apart from each other in the first period, but the Marlies exploded for four tallies in the second. Sislo picked up yet another powerplay tally, while Andrew Campbell, Brendan Leipsic, and Justin Holl also made contributions. Rochester did pull the game within one with five minutes to go, but Kasimir Kaskisuo made up for Saturday’s loss by holding the fort until the final buzzer.

Marlies sign Lindgren

This is around the time of year where you start to teams bring in their prospects with finished seasons, and either dress them if they’re extremely talented, or at least give them a look around to get them accustomed for future seasons. Swedish defenceman Jesper Lindgren was the first to get this treatment today, signing an Amateur Tryout so he could join the Marlies for the rest of the year. The 2015 4th round pick had spent the season playing for MODO Hockey, who are currently in Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan. The 19-year-old’s

The 19-year-old’s 24 points in 50 games saw him rank 7th in league scoring among defenceman, climbing to 4th when sorted by U24 players and 1st when sorted by U21s. Lindgren, who is an offensive defenceman with puck-carrying abilities, has had optimistic-looking point production rates throughout his teenage years, sliding a bit with MODO last year as a top-level rookie on the second worst team in the league but performing at various junior levels prior. Using Rob Vollman’s NHLe

There’s a slight chance that Lindgren could even see some game time with the Marlies before this season ends. Toronto isn’t exactly strong on the right side, with Justin Holl, Steve Olesky, and William Wrenn as their three right-handed shots on the point. With no disrespect to the other two, who have fared well of late, Holl is the only real mainstay of the group, which gives Lindgren a chance to compete a bit.

More than likely, Lindgren won’t be the only player to sign an ATO with the Marlies this spring. Don’t be surprised to see some of Toronto’s 2015 and 2016 North American draft picks put pens to paper at the conclusion of their Major Junior seasons, and don’t rule out Carl Grundstrom from following in Lindgren’s shoes and flying over once his SHL season with Frolunda is complete.

Looking Ahead

The Marlies don’t play again until the weekend, but those games will definitely have some meaning to them. They’ll take on the St. John’s IceCaps in Newfoundland on Friday and Saturday, and those games could have three wildly different meanings to them. If Utica catches up to St. John’s as a result of Toronto running the tables, they’ll be the last two games they ever face them in. The results could go another direction, though, and set up a first-round playoff matchup, or at least get them both into the post season.

Toronto’s big focus, however will be to pick up points. Syracuse remains three behind them with a game in hand; the highest they can get to is 90. With the season series tie breaker in Toronto’s favour, the Marlies could make the Crunch’s last three games insignificant with a win and an overtime loss, though we’ll have a better idea of what the requirements are come tomorrow, when Syracuse faces Utica.