A Matt Murray sighting, Lyubushkin returns, and Bertuzzi absent: Leafs Practice Notes

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
26 days ago
As the Leafs prepare for a back-to-back on the weekend, a long-forgotten goalie made an appearance before practice commenced.
Matt Murray took another step in his recovery by making a short appearance before the Leafs began today’s practice. While this does not signal his return is imminent as he left when the main session commenced, it is a good indication that things are going well for him as he works his way back to the NHL.
He was already slated to be placed on LTIR before training camp even began due to getting a bilateral hip surgery in early October that would take six to eight months for recovery. This means he would be back before the end of the regular season if all went according to plan relative to the minimum timeline.
Before today’s signing at practice, the only other update provided on Murray was back in late February when Sheldon Keefe told reporters that the goalie was progressing well and starting to see pucks. Although the chances of him actually getting into games this season are not high, it’s not impossible so this is certainly worth keeping an eye on down the stretch.
The flu bug giveth and the flu bug taketh away.
Ilya Lyubushkin was seen at practice this morning after not participating in the Leafs’ last two games due to battling an illness. While it appears the worst of whatever was bugging him is now in the rearview mirror, Toronto opted to take a precaution by not having him skate with the top six at practice (more on that later).
Meanwhile, Tyler Bertuzzi did not hit the ice today as it seems the illness he has been battling the last few days has taken firm control of him. He was close to getting healthy scratched on Wednesday night because he was feeling under the weather but the Leafs opted to play him anyway hence why he did not hit the ice until around halfway through the first period. Bertuzzi played well that night but it must have taken a toll on him which might explain why he was been given the day off to rest.
It looks like Keefe is once again trying to experiment with the lines which he surely would have done even if everyone was healthy. Auston Matthews and Max Domi will get some more ice time together which has worked wonders so far, the second line has the potential to be effective, while the bottom six are black holes offensively. Mitch Marner is still absent and has yet to participate in practice since his high-ankle sprain, so the timeline for his return is still up in the air.
Good to see Ryan Reaves back in the fold so quickly after taking a finger to the eye during a fight on Tuesday with Flyers’ forward Nicolas Deslauriers. He was spotted at practice donning a visor and if he wears it in tomorrow’s game, it will be the first time in his career doing so as he is one of the last players to still be without a visor.
Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe have without question been the Leafs’ best two defencemen this season so it makes sense why they are going to try them out as a pair once again. Otherwise, the pairings remain unchanged from Wednesday, meaning TJ Brodie could be healthy scratched for a second straight game. There is no doubt that internally he is probably frustrated about this but he has not been effective this season and the time was ripe for Simon Benoit to get back into games.
With Bertuzzi absent from practice, the Leafs made some changes to their power-play. Domi slides up to the top unit while McCabe fills in the vacant spot left behind on the second unit so expect the Leafs to run with these formations tomorrow should Bertuzzi need more rest.
Getting the special teams unit going again will be vital in the Leafs’ chances of a deeper run in the playoffs this spring and to this point, both have been struggling. The power play has seen some better results in the last two games which is definitely encouraging but they also need to get on a roll down the stretch. The constantly rotating lines certainly do not help but the schedule does not stop so they have to work with what they have.
No word was given on who will get the nod for their next game but it is fair to assume they do the same rotation as their last back-to-back, meaning Ilya Samsonov will play on Saturday and Joseph Woll gets the Sunday game.
The first half of those games is against the Oilers on Hockey Night in Canada, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

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