Head coach Sheldon Keefe said at Monday’s practice that defenceman Jake Muzzin has suffered a broken facial bone and will be out an undetermined amount of time. Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton were also listed as out day-to-day with undisclosed injuries.
Then, just before the opening faceoff of the Maple Leafs’ home game against the Calgary Flames, the team announced that starting goaltender Frederik Andersen would not play due to a lower-body injury.
Michael Hutchinson was given the start against Calgary in Andersen’s place.
Keefe said Muzzin is awaiting diagnosis, which will determine a timeline for his absence. He will wear a full face shield when he returns.
Travis Dermott will move into the Leafs’ defensive top-4 while Muzzin is out, Keefe said.
Muzzin has 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 17 games this season and is averaging 21 minutes 28 seconds of ice time.
Thornton is out again after missing 10 games with a rib injury. He returned Feb. 15 and has seven points in four games this month.
Hyman has four goals and six assists in 18 games. He played in Toronto’s 5-3 win over Montreal on Saturday after missing the Maple Leafs’ previous game.
Andersen is 11-3-1 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
The Leafs were already without veteran forward Wayne Simmonds (broken wrist) and goaltender Jack Campbell (leg).
And, perhaps most surprising, all kinds of bit players, role players and unsung Oilers are coming through with strong play, from grinders Jujhar Khaira, Tyler Ennis and Josh Archibald on the team’s hard-checking Nitty Gritty Dirt Line to Gaetan Haas on the penalty kill to Jesse Puljujarvi, who suddenly looks every bit the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft.
He’s playing strong two-way hockey on Edmonton’s top line with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Puljujarvi has six goals in his last 10 games. He’s taking care of business both in his own zone and as a grinder in front of the opposition net.
He’s playing so well that he’s even won over his coach, something Puljujarvi never came close to doing with Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock in the young forward’s first stint with the Oilers.
“I love Jesse,” said coach Dave Tippett when asked about Puljujarvi. “He’s always having fun. You love to see a guy, when he scores he’s having so much fun, he’s like a kid in a candy store out there. He’s playing really well. He plays hard. He’s around it. He plays hard all the time. He’s come in and he’s really given us a boost. He’s a Top 6 forward that can play in a lot of different situations and I think there’s huge upside on him going forward but he’s been real good for us so far.”
This summer I argued it would be a good idea to try Puljujarvi with McDavid based on their past success together. I became more convinced that Puljujarvi would have some NHL success after watching him in Finland in the fall. He was just so big, fast, skilled and confident, like an aircraft carrier cruising up and down the ice, dominating the battle theatre. At that time I wrote that the 22-year-old Puljujarvi was fairly swaggering with confidence on the ice, glowing with purpose, shining like a well-cut diamond, a most welcome sight.
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But could he translate that to the NHL? No one could be certain until he actually did it.
Puljujarvi was inconsistent in his early games in Edmonton this winter. He wasn’t helped by playing with a struggling Kyle Turris, but he’s put together a run of solid games on the top line.
His linemates McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins now look to pass to Puljujarvi, something that didn’t happen so much in his previous stint with the Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins even came to Puljujarvi’s defence after Antoine Roussel of Vancouver cheap shotted him with a punch, a sure sign this Oilers team is coming together.
When it comes to the heart and the guts of the NHL game — making major contributions to Grade A scoring chances at even strength, as well as not making major mistakes on Grade A chances against — Puljujarvi is the Oilers best winger.
He’s made 41 such major contributions to Grade A chances in 272 even strength minutes, 2.2 per game.
Next best for Oilers wingers is Nugent Hopkins and Zack Kassian, 1.97 per game, then Dominik Kahun, 1.87 per game. Connor McDavid leads the team overall with 3.1 per game.
Can Puljujarvi keep up the scoring? We’re all starting to believe, most importantly, his coach.
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Nick Nurse, head coach of the Toronto Raptors, and five other members of the coaching staff will not be part of Friday night’s game against the Houston Rockets, because of health and safety protocols, the team announced.
“Due to health and safety protocols, six members of the Raptors’ coaching staff, including head coach Nick Nurse, will not be on the bench beginning with Friday’s game vs. Houston. They will continue to work remotely, and details on their return will be communicated when appropriate,” the team said in a statement.
General manager Bobby Webster will speak to the media Friday at 5:45 p.m. ET, during the head coach’s pregame availability window.
It’s uncertain who will take over on the bench for what was already a shorthanded staff. Chris Finch left the team earlier this week to become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Jama Mahlalela, Jim Sann and Jon Goodwillie make up the remainder of Nurse’s coaching staff.
It’s also uncertain how many games the coaching staff will miss. The Raptors host Chicago on Sunday.
The Raptors have been lucky amid the global pandemic with no games postponed or rescheduled. Because of Canada’s border restrictions, they’re playing the season at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Donta Hall to a 10-day contract.
The six-foot-10 frontcourt player was expected to be in the lineup Friday for Toronto’s G-League affiliate, Raptors 905, in its game against the Greensboro Swarm.
Hall is averaging 8.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 23.5 minutes in nine games with Team Ignite of the NBA G League this season.
Hall split the 2019-20 season between the Grand Rapids Drive of the G League and Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets in the NBA. He averaged 4.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 14.8 minutes in nine games at the NBA level.
Raptors 905 also acquired guard Jarron Cumberland and a 2022 second round pick from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in exchange for forward Dewan Hernandez.
The six-foot-five Cumberland was selected 12th overall in the 2021 NBA G League Draft by Rio Grande Valley.
Hernandez was selected 59th overall by the Raptors in the 2019 NBA draft. He appeared in six games for Toronto last season, averaging 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 4.7 minutes.
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