The return of William Nylander.
A return to full practice with no issues this week means William Nylander will be allowed to make his return Friday evening in Grand Rapids (7 p.m. puck drop). It’ll be his first AHL action since December 18. The Swedish forward has 34 points in 27 games and has good memories to fall back on against these opponents.
He potted twice against the Griffins in the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season — a game Toronto won 6-1.
Also joining the reunion party will be Josh Leivo. “Loaned” to the Toronto Marlies, the intention of the Leafs seems to be to allow Leivo to play this weekend and then take part in the AHL All-Star events, which are held on Sunday and Monday.
Justin Holl made his reappearance on Wednesday and should be available, as should Stuart Percy, who Holl replaced in the lineup in the last game.
Rylan Schwartz and Eric Faille have both returned to Orlando, but Brett Findlay has earned his stay with the Marlies.
Kasperi Kapanen was reported not to have travelled to Grand Rapids after picking up an injury, while doubts remain over the fitness of Sam Carrick and James Martin.
Friday evening is a rematch from Wednesday as Toronto face the Grand Rapids Griffins on the road once again.
Wednesday’s 4-0 victory for the Marlies far from told the whole story as the home team dominated Toronto at times, especially in the third period. Expected starter Garret Sparks was exceptional in making 39 saves for the shutout. As per recent policy, Ray Emery is likely to be the back-up, leaving Antoine Bibeau fresh for Saturday’s game.
Grand Rapids have won just one of their last five and have been shutout in consecutive games.
After an incredible winning streak at home that lasted 14 games, they’ve picked up just a solitary point from the last four played at Van Andel Arena. Wednesday’s game is an indication they should not be taken lightly, however. Scoring just once could open the floodgates for them.
Eric Tangradi, Martin Frk, Mark Zengerle and Andreas Athanasiou were all unlucky not to tally in the previous game and remain Grand Rapids’ most potent threats. Andy Miele had a quiet outing for someone of his ability, and the Marlies must watch out for a bounce back performance from a player who has 22 assists to his name this season.
Miele has been dynamite on the powerplay in recent years, but not so much this season as the Griffins have struggled in that department with just 25 goals on the man advantage (24th in the AHL).
Their penalty kill measures up favourably with the Marlies, but the Griffins are the only team in the AHL not to have scored a shorthanded goal this season.
Despite taking the loss on Wednesday, it’s likely that Jared Coreau will make the start between the pipes for Grand Rapids. Owning a 20-7-2 record, a 2.17GAA, 0.930 save percentage, Coreau has posted all three shutouts the team has earned this season.