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Lindgren: No shortage of support –



CALGARY – Choosing a birthday venue isn’t always a piece of cake, but goaltender Charlie Lindgren was mighty pleased with the location this year.

And with good reason after being recalled from the AHL’s Laval Rocket last weekend just in time to join the Canadiens on their road trip through Western Canada.

“I’d rather be here than legitimately anywhere else,” said Lindgren, who celebrated turning 26 on Wednesday afternoon with a practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Being in Calgary with the boys, it’s a good place to spend your birthday.”

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Le f��t�� est sur la glace. ?The birthday boy is on the ice.#GoHabsGo

It certainly is, especially after working hard all season long to earn your first recall of the 2019-20 campaign.

Work ethic alone didn’t get Lindgren another shot with the big club, though.

He credits a whole host of people with helping him stay the course in recent years to make his full-time NHL dreams a reality.

His parents Bob and Jennifer are among his biggest fans, of course, along with his younger brothers, Andrew and Ryan, and his grandfather, too. 

“What comes to mind first is my family. They’ve been pushing me my whole life and supporting me. I’ve got the best family in the world,” praised Lindgren, who boasts a 7-6-2 record in 16 appearances with Laval this year. “They just keep reminding me that this is what I’ve always worked for. That’s why I’m up here. It’s a credit to my family. They continue to motivate me and inspire me. They definitely keep me going. They’re kind of the motor behind me.”

Lindgren’s girlfriend Mikkayla Johnson has also been a huge help since relocating to Montreal this season.

“We have a great dynamic. She goes through the ups and downs with me,” explained Lindgren, who met Johnson when she served as the manager of his hockey team at Lakeville North High School in Minnesota. “We grew up in the same hometown, so I’ve know her for a long time. I can’t say enough good things about her. It’s kind of her first full year around hockey, but she loves spending time at the rink. I can’t complain.”

And then there’s Rocket goaltending and video coach Marco Marciano, the man charged with working with Lindgren on a daily basis.

“He’s been a huge part of my success,” mentioned Lindgren, before expanding upon the progress he made since first agreeing to terms with Montreal in March 2016. “From where I was to where I am now from a technical standpoint, I’m night and day different. I have a lot more confidence in what I do technically. My compete and battle has been kind of my bread and butter, and that hasn’t left me. I’ve taken a lot of leaps. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’ve got a lot of gas left in the tank and I’m going to keep on getting better. It’s a fun journey to be on.”

Part of that journey right now is having the opportunity to learn from starter Carey Price again.

As always, Lindgren is paying close attention to every move the 13-year NHL veteran makes.

“He’s a champion. He’s really incredible. The way he goes about his work every single day, he’s just so diligent. Watching him in practice, coming off a big game against Vancouver, he’s just amazing the way he works,” said Lindgren. “The way he can stop the puck, it’s fun to watch. Anyone can attest to that, any fan of Montreal, any fan of goaltending. Just to be around him, it motivates me, too. It’s inspiring and it’s definitely a big help.”

With that in mind, the St. Cloud State University product wants to take full advantage of this latest break.

“This is the best league in the world. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. It’s where I think I should be, and I want to stay up here,” said Lindgren. “I’ll just continue working hard every single day and keep on getting better. I love being here, so I just want to stay.”

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Why need for roster flexibility forced Maple Leafs’ hand in latest moves –



TORONTO — The price of much-needed roster flexibility was a piece of the goaltending depth Kyle Dubas amassed this off-season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers Monday before he even had a chance to play for the team. The closest Dell got was serving as Jack Campbell’s backup in Ottawa on Saturday night and now he’s off to New Jersey, where the Devils have been searching for more help since Corey Crawford’s retirement in training camp.

Toronto knew it had little chance of sneaking a 31-year-old with more than 100 games of NHL experience through the waiver wire, especially in this marketplace. There have been five goaltender claims since the NHL season began and it’s believed Edmonton was going to grab Dell if New Jersey didn’t take him first.

The move was necessitated by the fact the Leafs were only able to carry 18 skaters under the salary cap ceiling and lost Nick Robertson to a left knee injury that will sideline him for at least the next four weeks.

“[Robertson] had an MRI yesterday. The results we got back … I guess we would classify it as good news considering how it was looking,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said before Monday’s game against Winnipeg. “But he is going to miss some time.”

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The fact Robertson will miss at least 24 days and 10 games allows him to be placed on long-term injured reserve while he’s out. In waiving Dell and veteran centre Jason Spezza, who cleared and was assigned to the taxi squad in a paper move, Toronto was able to get just under the $81.5-million cap ceiling before placing Robertson’s salary on LTIR.

That should make it easier to move players back and forth from the taxi squad, giving Keefe more options to work with in the coming month. He put that directly to use by bringing up Mikko Lehtonen for his NHL debut against Winnipeg as part of an 11F/7D rotation.

“We want to get him going here today and really try to get a feel for how he can compete in the league, and give him a chance to do that,” Keefe said of Lehtonen. “The greatest challenge for players like him is the nature of training camp and no exhibition season is you can’t really get the kinks out, you can’t make the adjustments, you can’t make the mistakes in those games that don’t matter and then have it cleaned up by the time you’re playing for real.”

It shouldn’t be long before Rasmus Sandin, Travis Boyd and Adam Brooks jump up from the taxi squad and get some playing time as well.

Depth is necessary to get through every season, but the challenges are even greater with the compressed schedule and the lingering threat of positive COVID-19 cases.

That’s part of the reason why the Leafs brought in both Dell and Michael Hutchinson on one-way contracts in October despite already having Campbell and Frederik Andersen in-house.

“We did that before we knew what the schedule was exactly going to look like and we just wanted to make sure that we had as much depth as possible,” Dubas said earlier this month. “Not knowing the way that things were going to be, we just felt that having as many capable NHL goaltenders was going to be important.”

Hutchinson moves up to the No. 3 role with Dell on his way to New Jersey.

That could wind up being a big opportunity for him career-wise but it had to be tinged with a whiff of disappointment. Dell only got to pull on the Leafs sweater in an intra-squad scrimmage during training camp and to serve as the backup over the weekend, and never put his Felix Potvin-inspired pads in any real action as a result.

“He’s a quiet guy that just goes about his business and stays ready,” said Keefe. “That’s really what you’re looking for in terms of personality and how he’s handled himself. … He’s an established goaltender in the league and we knew when signing him that it would be difficult to get him through waivers if it came to that.

“Here we are.”

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Maple Leafs’ Robertson to miss about four weeks with knee injury –



Toronto Maple Leafs rookie forward Nick Robertson, who suffered a knee injury in his NHL regular-season debut over the weekend, will be sidelined roughly four weeks, coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters Monday.

Robertson was injured in the first period of the team’s 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators after a hit from Drake Batherson.

The 19-year-old Robertson appeared in four of the Maple Leafs’ five playoff games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring one goal. He replaced fellow rookie Alexander Barabanov on the fourth line Saturday and had one shot in 2:20 of ice time before his injury.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Make Tough Decision in Waiving Jason Spezza and Aaron Dell – The Hockey Writers



We knew the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to have to be creative with the salary cap situation. General Manager Kyle Dubas said there would be a lot of paperwork to file out to stay compliant, but it was just a formality for the most part. But that paperwork started a dumpster fire on Sunday morning. Jason Spezza hit the waiver wire, and within minutes it got worse. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson spoke with Spezza’s agent, Rick Curran, who said Spezza would “simply retire” if another team claimed him.

What just happened? Spezza has played well as a fourth-line centre. He won all 10 of his face-offs on Saturday night in a win over the Ottawa Senators. He recorded his 600th career assist in the opening game against the Montreal Canadiens. He even played a few shifts on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. These facts did not lead anyone to imagine that his hometown team would waive the 37-year-old veteran.

Jason Spezza has been waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I’m sure Dubas did not come to this decision lightly. It’s a ripple effect of Nic Robertson injuring his knee in the first period of the game on Saturday night. A move had to be made to bring up another player from the taxi squad. According to his agent, Spezza understood the risks of these roster moves when he resigned with Toronto. He was happy to continue to play a depth role and offer leadership.

Rough Ride for Spezza in Toronto

I get that this is business, but you have to feel for the guy. He came to Toronto to pursue his dream of winning a Stanley Cup. In his first game with the organization, Mike Babcock gave the veteran the healthy scratch with several family members in attendance. A move that lit up the Toronto sports commentators for weeks. Now just three games into his second season with the Maple Leafs, he is put on the waiver wire.

It seems unlikely Spezza will be claimed. However, Toronto may lose its third goalie. Aaron Dell has also been put on waivers. Toronto was carrying three goalies to offer more downtime to Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. Andersen didn’t dress on Saturday night.

A Move Was Coming

Before Saturday’s game, Sheldon Keefe was asked about his ability to make lineup changes. His answer left it open to this kind of move. “You get the extra goalie insurance the depth there, and of course we value,” said Keefe. “I think when you look at our situation carrying a 21 man roster, and one of those guys is a third goalie, it limits our ability to make lineup changes. But a lot can happen in a season, and things can change quickly.”

Aaron Dell Sharks
Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Those changes did happen quickly. Not only in Toronto, but the Edmonton Oilers are facing challenges. Mike Smith was placed on the long-term injured reserve list. Edmonton lost back-up Anton Forsberg, who had earlier been claimed off waivers. This left Edmonton one minor injury from a disaster in the net. The Oilers have signed two goalies since, but due to quarantine restrictions, they are not available to the team until January 27. Edmonton is 19th on the waiver wire list. Not only that, the Oilers are in Toronto for a game on Wednesday and Friday. It’s hard to imagine that Dell will not be claimed.

We are just three games into the 56-game regular season. We are getting a sense of how difficult it will be for teams and players to manage the new world of quarantine restrictions. Who could’ve predicted that Robertson’s knee injury could lead to a possible retirement of Spezza and could possibly help out a North Division rival? This is the new normal.

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