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Woll takes next step towards returning, new look D, and other lineup changes: Leafs practice notes

Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Before we get to the Leafs news, look who has made a miraculous recovery:
There’s your early favourite for the Masterton. After his near-death experience on Saturday night, Ridly Greig is seemingly in perfect health. Power of prayer? Essential oils? Who knows how he made this recovery but certainly not what you’d expect of the player most recently seen lying on the ice in the fetal position.
Anyways, I’m sure the Morgan Rielly discipline meeting will go just great.
Here’s a happier update from the Leafs practice as a palate cleanser:
That’s right, Joseph Woll is back at practice, the full practice. His first one since his injury and the first hurdle that needs to be cleared in order to get him back into gameplay. It’s now been two months since we’ve last seen Woll and the Leafs will probably try to ease him back in, but when looking at Toronto’s back-to-back games against the Knights and Coyotes on February 21st and 22nd, we can start wondering if Woll might make an appearance in one of those instead of going back to Martin Jones.
Rather than doing a whole rundown of who was at the practice and who wasn’t, here’s the full summary right now. David Kampf was back and was skating on his usual line. Mark Giordano was back as well and skated in the third defensive pair. Morgan Rielly skated as an extra with Max Lajoie, an acknowledge that he is about to disappear for a while, and Conor Timmins is still down with the sickness and not at the practice. Bobby McMann was the odd man out of the forwards with Ryan Reaves still in.
Oddly enough there aren’t any changes in the Leafs forward lines other than Kampf coming in and bumping McMann out. I say oddly enough because you’d think the lack of secondary scoring might be more of a pressing issue for the Leafs and there would be some interest in shaking stuff up. I’m not sure what can still be accomplished with Bertuzzi playing on the second line in his scoring drought and the third and fourth lines leave a lot to be desired as presently staffed. Perhaps with the number of chances on the blueline, Sheldon Keefe is preferring to not shake up the whole group at once.
As for the defence, the top two pairings seemed like they were the inevitable starting point. Benoit and McCabe have been together for a while, and it is hard to imagine that Sheldon Keefe is looking to rock the boat in anyway there. Keeping them as the second pairing makes a lot of sense but it seems likely their icetime will go up.
Brodie and Liljegren is the hope and a prayer pairing as hopefully Brodie on the left side and paired with another positional player who moves the puck well they can be responsible enough though there will certainly be a decline in the offence they’ll be able to generate without Rielly.
As for Giordano and Lagesson, this seems like it will come down to how well Giordano’s injury is feeling and how healthy Conor Timmins is tomorrow. Some combination of those three as well as potentially Lajoie is to be expected depending on how long Rielly is out for. All things being equal, Giordano and Lagesson is probably the best option, but we’ll see how much the Maple Leafs miss Rielly’s offence and that might be what gets Timmins back in when he’s ready.
As for right now it is Jake McCabe on the first powerplay unit and Timothy Liljegren on the second unit. Of the Leafs defencemen, NHL Edge data shows that Jake McCabe is second only to Mark Giordano when it comes to the hardest shot and that could be the reasoning for getting him out there. It could also be that McCabe is placeholding for Timmins. It is also likely that with Liljegren taking on what looks like a top pairing role they don’t want to add top powerplay unit responsibilities at the same time and instead get him focused on the defensive side of his game.

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