The Toronto Maple Leafs begin the Calle Rosen experiment tonight in New York with a couple more of their regulars under the weather in what should be another hostile battle against the Islanders (7 p.m EST, SN Ontario).
This may not be Rosen’s big break quite yet, but the next few games he plays down the stretch will be important ones for a player who will have a good opportunity to start in the NHL next season. He was the clear first choice as a call-up once Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott went down within a few days of each other, but a poorly-timed foot injury kept him out until now. Jake Muzzin — in addition to Andreas Johnsson — could miss the game tonight with an illness of some sort, possibly leaving another spot open on D. It’s two steps forward, one step back on the Leafs blue line, it seems.
To be clear, Rosen would have gotten the callup regardless of Muzzin’s health, but the fact that Rosen is healthy and ready to play may be even more crucial entering tonight’s game. Rosen will likely pair with Dermott if Muzzin can play, but if he can’t, then the morning skate pairings indicate that he’ll play with Martin Marincin on his right.
Rosen has had a well-documented career year with the Marlies this season. Some may have forgotten the four games he played in October of 2017 with the Leafs, where he battled fellow countryman Andreas Borgman for the final spot on defense. Though Borgman ended up essentially winning that spot and playing 48 games for the Leafs in 17-18, Rosen was always the better skater and puck mover and likely a better candidate as a long-term fit for the Leafs after some seasoning and adjustment time to the North American game/ice surface down with the Marlies.
Up front, if Johnsson does miss out tonight, Kasperi Kapanen will slide onto the Matthews line to create a tantalizing trio in Kapanen – Matthews – Nylander. Johnsson’s place on that line has complemented a duo (Matthews – Nylander) that has been fantastic lately by giving Matthews a consistent LW that he clicks with and does a lot of the dirty work for the line. That said, this new combination has speed and skill to burn and could hopefully be what the doctor ordered as the Leafs look to get Kapanen back on the scoresheet and feeling confident about himself prior to the playoffs.
In nets, Frederik Andersen will start for the Leafs after a solid chunk of time off as he looks to work his way out of his funk and use these final three starts to round into form prior to the start of the Boston series next Thursday.
At the other end, in the midst of a career year is the Islanders’ Robin Lehner, who has been back in form lately. He was out with a head injury in early March and had some poor games both leading up to and proceeding his absence. Since then, Lehner is 4-1 in the five starts he’s had since returning, in addition to saving 12-of-12 in a loss to Montreal after he replaced Thomas Greiss in the second period. On the year, he owns a save percentage of .923, an HDSv% of .840, and a goals saved against expected of 16.2 (third in the NHL among starters).
Lineup notes aside, the Leafs owe Tavares a much better effort tonight than they manufactured in New York a month and a bit ago and also need to begin showing some urgency about ramping up for the playoffs. It’s not a switch that can simply be flipped on as soon as Game 1 starts.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on Calle Rosen:
Well, obviously, he’s a player I’ve talked a bit about, that we thought probably on your napkin last summer would be on the team. It didn’t go that way at training camp. He’s had a good year. He’s been injured of late, got back for a couple of games. Playing on D in the NHL and playing on D in the AHL are two different things, as you’ve seen. In saying all that, though, we like his skill set and he gets an opportunity here tonight.
The biggest thing is getting comfortable and knowing when to go, how to box out, how to take sticks [away], how to play on the D side, and making sure you don’t get scored on.
Babcock on whether Jake Gardiner will still play the last two games of the regular season:
That’s out plan. Now, I don’t know until that day, kind of like here today. I don’t know, but that’s our plan. He’ll get pushed here today and we’re making steps towards that happening.
Calle Rosen on his injury:
Foot is feeling good. I got a couple of games in before now, so I’m just excited to get back out there today.
Rosen on playing with Marincin:
We know each other, how to play, and where to be out there. I mean, I got a lot of ice time down with the Marlies this year, so it’s just going to be fun to be up here now.
Rosen on how he’s grown since playing in the NHL two years ago:
I mean, it’s almost two seasons later, so I think I’ve grown a lot and I’m really used to the game over here and I think I can contribute more than before.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#24 Kasperi Kapanen – #34 Auston Matthews – #29 William Nylander
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Patrick Marleau – #43 Nazem Kadri – #28 Connor Brown
#63 Tyler Ennis – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #42 Trevor Moore
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#48 Calle Rosen – #52 Martin Marincin
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Injured: Jake Gardiner (back), Jake Muzzin (illness), Andreas Johnsson (illness)
Scratched: Nic Petan, Justin Holl, Igor Ozhiganov
New York Islanders Projected Lines
#27 Anders Lee – #13 Matt Barzal – #7 Jordan Eberle
#12 Josh Bailey – #29 Brock Nelson – #29 Micheal Dal Colle
#18 Anthony Beauvillier – #47 Leo Komarov – #14 Tom Kuhnhackl
#17 Matt Martin – #53 Casey Cizikas – #15 Cal Clutterbuck
#2 Nick Leddy – #55 Johnny Boychuk
#3 Adam Pelech – #6 Ryan Pulock
#25 Devon Toews – #24 Scott Mayfield
#40 Robin Lehner
#1 Thomas Greiss
Injured: Valtteri Filppula, Andrew Ladd