Nick Ritchie has cleared waivers, while Pierre Engvall and Mitch Marner are the latest Maple Leafs to enter COVID-19 protocol.

If you thought you saw the last of Nick Ritchie in a Leafs jersey for a while, not so fast. Clearing waivers means Ritchie (and $1.125 million of his $2.5 million salary) can be freely moved back and forth between the Leafs and the taxi squad/Marlies for the next month, but he’ll remain on the NHL roster for now and will feature on the upcoming road trip in wake of today’s other news: Marner and Engvall tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing mild symptoms.

As a result, both Ritchie and Kyle Clifford will certainly play on the upcoming road trip. Joey Anderson, fresh off of a two-goal game with the Marlies against Utica on Wednesday night, will also travel with the team. So will Brett Seney, who played seven minutes at center ice in his one NHL appearance against the Oilers back on Dec. 14 before racking up six points in his next four AHL games.

Today’s practice lines were as follows:


Extra: Joey Anderson
Injured: Ondrej Kase


Extras: Biega, Liljegren 


Ondrej Kase skated before practice but did not participate fully as he is still recovering from “tweaking something” — in the words of Sheldon Keefe — while working out in the gym (he missed Wednesday’s game vs. Edmonton).

Just as the Leafs were just getting their full band together up front, the Leafs‘ bottom six has been thrown into disarray. The specific line combinations are all subject to change, but they’ve rejigged both lines in the top-six as well: Mikheyev has been moved up next to Tavares and Nylander, and Kerfoot over to the right wing — that’s a first — with Matthews and Bunting.

Tomorrow’s game will pose quite the test for this Leafs team. They have played just two games in 24 days and were off from practice for over a week during that period. In those two games — both wins — they played struggling, shorthanded teams affected by Covid in front of no fans, with head coach Sheldon Keefe labeling the competitive nature of the contests preseason-like.

Now, they will need to find another gear very quickly. Tomorrow, they enter the high altitude of Denver, Colorado to face off against an Avalanche team that is 8-1-1 in its last 10 (including a 7-1 shellacking of the Winnipeg most recently), relatively healthy and Covid-free at the moment, and will be looking to avenge the beatdown the Leafs laid on them a little over a month ago in Toronto.

Welcome to life in the NHL under COVID-19.