You’ve probably heard the news by now, but Tim Connolly is out 10-14 days with another (but different) upper body injury. Wait, no… that’s not news at all. Connolly’s last injury, listed as a day-to-day upper body ailment to start, ended up needing a protracted, near-full month recovery which saw him miss the opening eight games of 2011-12 before his eventual return on October 27. Let’s hope this injury doesn’tÂ prolongedlyÂ nag Tiny Tim and he can return within the projected time frame.
With Connolly back on the shelf, Â the good money is on a recall for Matt Frattin, who in three games with the Marlies scored his first two goals at the professional level. After failing to get on the scoresheet in his first two games with the Marlies (and posting a -4 against San Antonio), that’s what Leafs brass hoped to see from Frattin upon his demotion. The Joey Crabb/Matt Frattin swap last week was by all accounts a great little move, as Crabb rode a hot hand and chipped in two goals in his first two games up, while Frattin (hopefully) gained some scoring confidence after learning his great shot can go in at this level, too, and not just on college goalies.
Said Dallas Eakins on Frattin since his return to the Marlies: “I had to have a little direct conversation with Matt prior to the game tonight [against Houston on Sunday], and I let him know how we work things here. Just because he was the last call up doesn’t mean he’s the first guy to go back, and he needs to win that spot. I thought he responded great, he was physical, he made good decisions with the puck, and he started hitting the net with his shot. I just asked him, start with the goalie’s stomach and we’ll work out from there, and he was way, way better tonight. It just showed what kind of player he has been in the past, and how he was with the NHL team.”
In lieu of Frattin, it’s a possibility we could see the red hot Joe Colborne, who boats 10 goals and 19 points in 12 games as the Marlies’ first line centre, recalled today. He’s undoubtedly the Leafs’ strongest option at centre if that’s the direction Burke and Wilson choose to take, but it seems unnecessary given the Leafs have had Lombardi and Dupuis, both capable centremen, playing the wings as of late. Rather than try to fit him into a third line role, it seems best to let Colborne to try to keep a good thing going while seeing lots of ice, away from the spotlight.
There are a couple of potential benefits to having Colborne in the Leaf lineup, though; one, he could come in handy as an additional option for Wilson should Bozak struggle atop the lineup. As hot as he’s been, I don’t think anyone sees Colborne as a number one NHL centerman at this stage, but the option is there if Colborne looks good and Bozak struggles. Meanwhile, in a third line center’s role, Colborne would reunite with a winger he displayed significant chemistry with in the first ten games of the AHL season in Joey Crabb. Crabb – Colborne – Lombardi offers an intriguing mix of speed and size down low, and maybe a change of pace from what has been a pretty ineffectual third line as of late.
All that said, Matthew Lombardi taking over the third line centre’s spot, with Bozak rotated onto unit one and Matt Frattin stepping onto the third line wing alongside Lombardi and Crabb, seems like the safe bet for tonight against Florida.
In other lineup news, Luke Schenn will draw back in for Cody Franson after getting some time to think about his game in the press box on Saturday night. Given the result, count him and his plus/minus among the lucky ones. Jonas Gustavsson steps back between the pipes as Reimer continues to recover from what the club is still calling whiplash.
Regardless of how it shakes down up front, hopefully the line shuffling won’t slow the Leafs down in their search for a much-needed bounce back performance against the Panthers tonight at the ACC. Preventing a 7-0 trouncing in your own barn from snowballing into something more damaging than just the lost two points will be the emphasis for Wilson and his staff headed into this one.
Frattin’s two goals against Houston can be found in this highlight package:
“… the leafs have been playing with the 4th best Win Threshold in the league, but only have a S% of 0.892 (only better than Ottawa and Columbus). Thus their Delta has fallen to the 20th best in the league. Since it is negative, we can expect less than .550 hockey as long as we continue to play with this goaltending. If, however, we continue our team play, and receive even .900 goaltending, we will play at .550 hockey.”
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- Michael Traikos: Kulemin confident the good luck will be back
2010-11 thirty-goal man Nik Kulemin has just two goals in fourteen games to start the season. The MGK line has not been getting as many shots on net and that can’t help create the luck he’s looking for. Kulemin himself is averaging only 1.3 shots per game so far this season.
Biggs is on a four game point streak with Miami University.