SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Mitch Marner could have returned to the game earlier this week if the schedule allowed.
Both he and forward Pierre Engvall are eligible to return to the team until Friday, but the Toronto Maple Leafs’ condensed schedule the following night makes the return of both forwards less than ideal. – Entered the lineup earlier in the week.
“The last game was not right, but I’m willing to do it,” Mana said after training on Friday. “I’m happy to be back, I’m fine.”
Eight days ago, Marner and Engvall were placed under COVID-19 protocol. The timing of their exit comes right between their games against the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday and Thursday.
Instead, both players skated at home before boarding a plane to Phoenix on Thursday.
Marner took up his regular spot in practice with Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews. He’s also reclaimed his place as the team’s top powerhouse and is likely to appear in the penalty shootout when the team visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Maner and Engvall’s timing coincided with the team’s announcement before practice that forwards Ondrej Kase, Nitch Ritchie and defenseman Justin Holl were under COVID-19 protocols.
“Both of these guys are very valuable to us, they’ve contributed in a lot of ways,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Mana and Engvar. “It’s hard to see players leave the lineup, but now with COVID that’s what it is.”
Manner, who returned to the lineup on Jan. 1 after missing most of December with a shoulder injury, collided with teammate Jake Muzzin in practice. The skilful striker had a fruitful November, scoring five goals and providing 11 assists in 14 appearances. He then had two assists in an 8-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 1.
On the current road trip, the Leafs have struggled to maintain their lead in the third period, and Mana’s rest and offense could help the team get a much-needed boost.
“He’s looking good, he’s full of energy, he’s full of energy,” Matthews said of Mana. “It’s never easy to start over and start over on a break, but if anyone can bounce back and be as much of himself as possible, it’s definitely him.”
The Maple Leafs are 5-1 in the third quarter of their past three games. Keefe mentioned that he was concerned about the state of the team after the team lost 2-1 to the Coyotes.
The Leafs play their first game in 2022 without fans after their schedules were suspended for 17 days as the COVID-19 outbreak hit the teams and the league. Due to the break, coupled with Ontario government restrictions, the Scotiabank Arena lacked spectators and the game felt like a preseason game.
“It shows up here, and it shows that we haven’t played in these environments for a long time,” Keefe said. “It took us a while to get through, so we have to pay attention to that.”
On Friday, Keefe wrapped up his session with a physical skating session, with players sprinting back and forth at 45-second intervals.
jack got what he deserved
Both Jack Campbell and Matthews were named to the 2022 NHL All-Star Game on Thursday. It’s no surprise to Matthews, as the superstar will be making his fourth appearance as captain of the Atlantic Division for the second time. But for Campbell, it will be his first at age 30.
“This is an important moment for me and my family,” Campbell said of the honor.
The Port Huron, Michigan native, who was selected by the Dallas Stars with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, struggled to find his footing in the league.
Before joining the Maple Leafs in February 2020, he finally found a home with the Los Angeles Kings, where he established himself as a solid backup. Campbell set the NHL’s record for most wins last season with 11 points and unseeded current starter Frederick Anderson.
Campbell brought last season’s success to this year with an 18-5-3 record and a .935 save percentage. His consistency and solid stats are becoming the talk of the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL’s best goalie.
“It’s a great story that people can learn from,” Matthews said of Campbell.