Robertson slots in, Jarnkrok out week-to-week, and Lyubushkin absent: Leafs Practice Notes

Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
25 days ago
Calle Jarnkrok’s injury on Thursday night meant that the forward lines would get a new look. Enter Nick Robertson.
Jarnkrok took an awkward fall that resulted in him colliding with the boards, forcing him to leave the game midway through the second period. Sheldon Keefe spoke with reporters following practice that the Swedish forward suffered a hand injury on the play and is going to be considered week-to-week.
While the news is encouraging cause that presents the possibility he could return before the playoffs, this is a tough setback for Jarnkrok who was only six games into his return after suffering a broken knuckle last month.  It is unclear if the hand he injured yesterday is the same one that dinged him in February, but either way, his hands have taken quite the beating this season.
It also appears that Mitch Marner is still not ready to return as he will miss a third straight game since suffering a high-ankle sprain in Boston last week. An exact timeline on his return was not mentioned (though Keefe thinks Marner could ramp things up next week) but given how much precaution the Leafs took with the same ailment suffered by Timothy Liljegren and Joseph Woll, Marner could be out for a while.
All of this presents Robertson with a prime opportunity to cement his place in the lineup and prove to the coaching staff that he can provide more than just offence. He has made his frustrations with the lack of consistent playing time well-known throughout the year and this upcoming stretch will be his chance to show why he deserves to stay. Much like Liljegren, it’s now or never for the American winger.
As Lance Hornby mentioned in the above tweet, Robertson’s insertion into the lineup meant sweeping changes to the forward lines and the power play. This certainly suggests that Keefe is going to start getting experimental again down the stretch and even more so now that two regulars are unavailable.
It looks like Toronto is trying to go for a more balanced roster with three of the big four manning their own lines. Aside from Robertson, the only other notable change up front is Noah Gregor slotting back in while Ryan Reaves sits which is likely a matchup strategy considering their next opponent is the Hurricanes.
One of the forward lines that catches my attention is the third line of McMann, Domi, and Nylander. That feels like it should theoretically be an ideal combination and one that could hopefully be used more frequently down the stretch even once the Leafs get back to full strength.
As for the blueline, the pairs appear to remain unchanged though the only exception being Ilya Lyubishkin’s absence. Keefe told reporters that they gave the Russian defenceman the day off to recover as he was physically banged up after Thursday’s game. His status for Saturday’s game is unclear but that will depend on how he responds to some rest. Assuming he can’t go, the lines may take on a whole different look because Conor Timmins is still on LTIR and it is not clear if he is ready to return.
Robertson’s return also means the power play units are getting a complete overhaul. While it may seem infuriating to Tyler Bertuzzi off the top unit given how well has been doing of late, the fact of the matter is that the same unit looked disorganized and out of sorts despite getting four chances on the man advantage. The second unit was the only one that played well in Philadelphia and got a goal despite the penalty expiring.
I can’t imagine the new look top unit sticks for long, but this goes to show how integral Marner is to the Leafs’ success on the power play. Either way, they will need to get into a rhythm down the stretch because special teams will play a pivotal role in determining how far they go in the playoffs.
As for who will get the nod, Keefe did not tip his hand but it would not be surprising if they go with Ilya Samsonov again. He played well against the Flyers and the signs are pointing to him being the favourite to get the Game 1 start. That means you can Joseph Woll to get another shot at regaining his form on Tuesday for the rematch in Philadelphia.
The Leafs return home for a showdown against the new-look Hurricanes on Hockey Night in Canada, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

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