Joffrey Lupul returns to the Leaf lineup at a time when they could sure use a boost. It’s not official that he’ll play tonight, but the indication from the player himself is that he will be making his reappearance against the Winnipeg Jets after 25 games missed due to the broken forearm, and indications from practice yesterday are that he might start off on a line with Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin. One imagines, after some time to shake off the rust, he’ll make his way back up to the top line opposite Kessel. For tonight, I’m curious to see how that line, if it comes together, performs in their matchup while attempting to exploit weaker competition.
You have to like how the Leafs depth at forward is starting to shape up now that they’ve got a full deck. Let’s hope Carlyle can find the right combinations to turn what could be a triple threat into reality. With this likely bumping McClement and Komarov to the fourth line, Lupul’s return also lends itself to the tantalizing potential of rolling four lines effectively.
Meanwhile, Morgan Rielly will reportedly join the Marlies on Wednesday, likely seeing his first pro action on the following weekend. Even more reason to head down to the Ricoh for a game. The Marlies can definitely use the blueline boost with Holzer, Fraser and Kostka up with the Leafs, and they should have their PP quarterbacking duties well looked after between Rielly and Gardiner. After missing half his season last year to the knee injury, this caps off a solid development campaign for Rielly, between his participation for Team Canada in World Junior tournament and now this chance to embark on a playoff run in the AHL and dip his toes into the fishbowl Toronto market. We’re well aware of the offensive skills and skating ability Rielly brings to the table, so I’ll be most curious to see how he fares from the defensive and physical standpoints while facing pro competition.
Stuart Percy may follow shortly after depending on the result of Mississauga, Peterborough and Kingston’s final games of the season. The three teams are in a complicated playoff scenario for the final two seeds in the East with one game left to play. Both Mississauga and Kingston play the league worst Ottawa 67’s, on Saturday and Sunday respectively, while the Petes play the fourth-placed Battalion on Sunday. If Mississauga does find a way in, it seems unlikely they’ll take first-seed Belleville to more than four games given they haven’t won in over 10 games, putting them in this situation to begin with.
Here are some Morgan Rielly videos for your Saturday morning.
Believe it or not, this first video is all from one game against Vancouver in November. Prepare to have your jaw drop at the sight of this kid’s ability to dangle at speed, jump into the rush and lead a one-man breakout.
More dominance in a single game reel against Calgary:
A highlight pack from January:
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