And just like that, everything’s coming up Milhouse for the Leafs.
After their depleted blue line got back Travis Dermott on Saturday against the Senators, they’re going to get another addition as Jake Gardiner will finally return to the lineup.
Expect Jake Gardiner to play his first game tonight since Feb. 25. He's in the usual spot beside Nikita Zaitsev at the #leafs morning skate.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 4, 2019
This will be Gardiner’s first game since February 25 against the Sabres, as he missed the previous 18 games due to back spasms. There were some concerns if he would’ve even played another game as a Toronto Maple Leafs, as it almost seemed like he wouldn’t be back in time for the first round against Boston, and there was no guarantee that the Leafs would make it past Boston, especially without Gardiner.
The Leafs certainly missed Gardiner during the 18 games he was out, as the Leafs have been a mediocre 8-7-3 in his absence, while also allowing 3.42 goals against per game. Losing Dermott also didn’t help, but it still shows how important Gardiner is to the team.
Gardiner has had a solid year with 29 points in 60 games, although he only has two goals and hasn’t scored one in 32 games. On the defensive end, aside from his one really bad play every game, he’s been rocking a solid 52% CF% this year, and a 53.4% xGF% to boot, all while playing nearly three quarters of his 5v5 ice time with Nikita Zaitsev.
Getting Gardiner back for a couple games to get back into game shape for the playoffs will be essential, and hopefully he has a good series against Boston as well.