Marner set to return, Edmundson participates, and Samsonov projected to start: Leafs Practice Notes

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
21 days ago
The Leafs are about to get a major boost up front as Mitch Marner is closing in on his long-awaited return.
This falls in line with a projection that Sheldon Keefe provided on the All-Star winger earlier this week. It certainly would have been nice to have him available for Wednesday’s game against the Lightning, but the Leafs are prioritizing long-term health especially since these games don’t mean much with the team on the verge of punching their ticket to the playoffs.
It’s been a long journey back for the Canadian forward who has missed the past 12 games with a high ankle sprain suffered during a tilt with the Bruins. He certainly avoided the worst of it given Joseph Woll and Timothy Liljegren had more severe injuries to the same body part that kept them out longer, but don’t expect Marner to immediately light the league on fire beginning tomorrow night. He is going to need a few games to get back up to speed and get his ankle feeling comfortable again.
I won’t go too in-depth here because our very own Alex Hobson did a deep dive on these new-look forward lines earlier today. But Keefe did a great job adjusting the lines here because not only does this ensure the top line stays intact for a little while longer but it also allows the Leafs to roll three lines that can generate offence. It unfortunately comes at the expense of Nick Robertson who is a projected healthy scratch in Montreal, but it’s hard to argue with the overall composition that is being used here.
As someone who has long been an advocate for the Leafs spreading the stars out across three lines, seeing Keefe more willing to go with this strategy compared to seasons past is a welcome addition and one that many will surely hope continues into the playoffs.
As for the defence pairings, these are also an ideal combination to use and it makes sense to sit Conor Timmins here cause he did not have a great game on Wednesday. A noteworthy thing about these pairings is that it marks the first time Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie have been paired up while members of the Leafs. It should take no time for the two to renew their on-ice chemistry as they were long-time partners while part of the Flames organization.
Good to see Edmundson participating in practice for the first time since his injury a little over a week ago. His return to the lineup is by no means imminent but this bodes well for his projected timeline of sometime before the end of the regular season.
It also appears that Ilya Samsonov is projected to start in tomorrow’s game after Woll took the crease on Wednesday. The recent Masterton Trophy nominee has the Game 1 starting role all but locked up but will surely like to continue the good momentum he has going into the stretch run.
Finally, Matt Cooke was seen at practice today observing the session, but what new role he has been given within the organization is currently unknown. This comes in the wake of the ECHL’s Growlers ceasing operations earlier this week after falling behind on payments to the city of St. John’s and being unable to find a new owner before a league-issued deadline to change ownership or see the team fold.
Cooke and the Growlers were supposed to play six more games before the end of the regular season, so obviously him being in Toronto watching the Leafs practice was not something he planned on doing a few weeks ago. But good for the organization to ensure all of the people coming from Newfoundland get some new work to fill the void left behind by the Growlers’ ceasing to exist. In addition to Cooke, the Marlies have also brought up 12 players from the Growlers in the past four days to join the AHL squad for the stretch run heading into the playoff chase given the team is barely hanging on to the eighth seed in the East.
The Leafs will face their forever rivals in the Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

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