The Maple Leafs will step straight out of the All-Star Break into a back-to-backÂ set with the Penguins, starting with tonight’s tilt in Pittsburgh. Â They’ll finish out this week’s slate of games against the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday night. Â With these clubs almost directly above the Leafs in the standings, it’s safe to say that Toronto will look to build on their two game sweep of the Islanders last week. Â While they won’t be ready for tonight, the return of some injured Toronto players bodes well for the impending playoff push.
The recently-extended Liles and Colby Armstrong look to be returning to the Maple Leafs lineup in the near future. Â Liles will energize the Toronto powerplay and add to the offensive dynamics of the club. Â There’s little certainty when it comes to Armstrong’s play after this incredulous run of injuries, but at the very least Colby should add some checking and grit in the corners, along the boards and on the puck.
Yet it remains to be seen which players will draw out of the lineup with the return of Armstrong and Liles. Â In a surprising turn of events, Toronto will have the luxury of an abundance of NHL-ready forwards. Â Armstrong’s return will likely ensure that one of Nazem Kadri or Joey Crabb will at least temporarily lose their spot on the roster. Â Both have made cases for retaining their current role with the Leafs, but it’s difficult to see the coaching staff sitting the tenaciousness, speed and penalty killing of Mike Brown or the faceoff prowess of Dave Steckel.
With respect to the blueliners, we’re a bit more familiar with this situation, as the beginning of the season saw Cody Franson as a consistent healthy scratch, with Komisarek and others rotating as scratches of their own. Â The surplus of defensemen may very well be resolved after Burke makes a trade, but for now Toronto will have to deal with 7 healthy blueliners. Â For now, it will either be a Gardiner or Komisarek healthy scratch that opens the spot for Liles.
As such, our lineup could very well look like this by the weekend:
Lupul-Bozak-Kessel Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur Kadri-Connolly-Lombardi Armstrong-Steckel-Brown
Phaneuf-Gunnarsson Liles-Schenn Komisarek-Franson
It may not last for very long, but we will have a chance to see a fully healthy 2011-12 Leafs roster at work. Â Would this team make the playoffs as is? Â It’s safe to say Brian Burke has identified some needs and some expendables, but it remains to be seen what they are.
MLHS’ Salming’s Scar is organizing a ‘Leafs Nation in BC’ fan group on facebook for game viewing parties and the like.
Be sure to join if you’re a Leafs fan in BC.