Jarnkrok is back, Robertson an extra, and Giordano to be placed on LTIR: Leafs Practice Notes

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
1 month ago
The Leafs seem to be getting a boost up front as Calle Jarnkrok participated in his first full practice since sustaining a broken knuckle.
He has been out for the last month recovering from the ailment mentioned above and this latest development comes mere days after he first hit the ice in a non-contact jersey to work on his shooting and puck handling. The recovery seems to have gone smoothly for Jarnkrok and he appears to be closing in on a return to the lineup as soon as Saturday night against the Rangers.
Undoubtedly, having him back in the lineup is a significant boost for the Leafs as his two-way play and versatility have been sorely missed up front. The challenge Sheldon Keefe now faces is how to adjust the lines with Jarnkrok available and it appears Toronto has opted to put him on the third line to start.
This results in Nick Robertson being on the outside looking in, at least for now. Robertson’s offensive skillset is undeniable and there is logic to him being on the same line as John Tavares and Bobby McMann. The issue all season long is him trying to establish himself on the other side of the ice to justify continued usage beyond offensive situations as the defensive aspect of his game remains a work in progress.
It also does not signal that he is going to be on the move in the coming days since management seems to like him enough to keep him on the roster throughout the last few months. Don’t be surprised if he gets into a rotation with Noah Gregor and Ryan Reaves for the extra roster spot now that the forwards have reached full health.
Ilya Lyubushkin has not rejoined the team yet but the defensive pairings used at practice suggest he will be reunited with Morgan Rielly once he has arrived. It makes sense given Keefe used that pair during the latter half of the 2022 regular season as well as the playoffs. He certainly fits the mould of the type of partner that seems to work well with Rielly (ie: Luke Schenn) and it is not a stretch to suggest it won’t take long for him to gel with Lyubishkin.
As for the rest of the defence pairings, there is a clear need for some additional options on the right side given the rest of the defencemen currently available shoot left. That will obviously improve once Timothy Liljegren is cleared (which could be on Saturday night), but it would not be a shock to see the Leafs try and get another right-shot blueliner before next week’s trade deadline.
The only other noteworthy absence is Mark Giordano, who left last night’s win over the Coyotes midway through the first period after colliding awkwardly into the boards and appeared to have suffered a concussion on the play. Brad Treliving provided an update on Giordano’s status and it appears he will be out for some time with head trauma and will likely go back on LTIR as a result.
Toronto was forced to play Mitch Marner on defence for long stretches of the game to help offset the loss of Giordano. Putting Marner there was just enough to get by in that game, but it made the need for further reinforcements beyond Lyubushkin more apparent. For what it’s worth, Treliving told reporters this afternoon that they are not done making moves so who knows what other reinforcements are on the way.
Another thing to note about these lines is that Ilya Samsonov is going to get the nod for tomorrow’s tilt against the Rangers, which Sheldon Keefe confirmed following practice. With Joseph Woll back in the fold, you can expect to see them go back and forth between the two netminders for the next little bit before determining which one will get an extended runway going into spring. They also will want to manage Woll’s workload as he works his ankle back up to speed after missing nearly three months of action.
The Leafs will look to maintain their strong play when they host the Rangers on Saturday night. You can catch the action on Sportsnet and CBC with the puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

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