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Photo Credit: © Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

News and Notes: The Leafs sign an EBUG, Holl out Liljegren in, Mrazek won’t be out long-term

So the 2021-22 season is not even a week old yet and the Leafs are already in full chaos mode with all of the news circulating this morning in regards to the lineup and the status of some injured players.

We begin with the biggest story of them all, which is the Leafs being short on cash and resorting to unique methods to get around that problem.

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What, David Ayres was not available?

Jokes aside, this must be huge for Alex Bishop who has posted decent numbers during his time in the QMJHL and USports. He is in his senior year at the University of Toronto so this will surely be a moment he will never forget. He will most likely sit on the bench for the entire game, but it wouldn’t shock me if Sheldon Keefe were to do him a solid and let him play the final few minutes depending on how things go in the game.

The reason for this is because Leafs ran out of cap space and have yet to play one game where they are short a body in order to invoke their emergency call-up. Our noted insider Nick Barden reported yesterday that Michael Hutchinson was not at Marlies practice, so all signs point to him being brought up for the time being while Petr Mrazek recovers from his groin injury. If I were to guess, we can expect the Leafs to make the call-up at some point on Sunday in order to prepare for their next game on Monday against the Rangers.

Liljegren set to make his season debut

When the news of Bishop slotting in as the EBUG began to circulate, some were quick to point out that the Leafs should have sent down Timothy Liljegren so that Hutchinson could more easily get brought up. That proved to not be the case because Liljegren will actually be playing.

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Liljegren has an impressive camp and finally earned a spot on the Leafs roster to begin the season, cementing the team’s belief in him being part of their long-term plans. Having only played a combined 13 NHL games in the previous two seasons, this is a massive opportunity for him to showcase his skills and make Keefe’s life harder when setting up the lineup as the season progresses.

Speaking of Keefe, he told the media that the reason for Justin Holl’s absence is due to him having cold symptoms and taking precautionary measures to ensure that it isn’t COVID-19. This is part of the new reality of the NHL as the pandemic continues to rage on and there are no signs of it coming to an end anytime soon. Holl has had a rough first two games so some time away from the rink could help him get back on track and return to the strong form he showed throughout the 2021 campaign. Get well soon, Justin!

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An update on Matthews and Mrazek

As mentioned earlier, Mrazek will be on the shelf for a bit after suffering a groin injury in the final moments of the second period during Thursday night’s game against the Senators. There was a sense of dread when the PR report came out that he would be out of commission for a while, but Keefe believes that the newly signed goalie will not miss much time:

It’s an encouraging sign that Mrazek will likely avoid being placed on LTIR because one of the big concerns last season was Jack Campbell’s longevity and it forced the team to ease back on his playing time throughout the campaign. Mrazek has fallen into injury trouble over the past few seasons which was one of the risks of a tandem including him and Campbell, so here’s hoping he will return to the crease in due time. With the upcoming week being pretty lean in terms of games played, there is a possibility he could be back in time for his first matchup against his former mates in Carolina since free agency.

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Meanwhile, Auston Matthews continues to make strides in his recovery from wrist surgery.

Keefe said he spoke with the Leafs’ star forward after practice and pointed out that things are going well for him and appears on track to make his season debut soon. While he did not specify when Matthews will be back in the lineup, things seem to be moving in a positive direction.

He was slated to miss the first three games of the regular season but there was no indication that he would be ready for Monday’s contest. Judging by the fact that he remains in the grey jersey and wasn’t on the ice with the rest of his teammates, my best guess is he will likely be given the game against the Rangers off and will make his return on Friday when the Sharks come to town.

Today’s practice was no doubt an eventful one and the craziness of the day appears to just be getting started. With an EBUG on the roster for tonight, who knows what crazy shenanigans could lie ahead on the first HNIC broadcast of this brand new season.