The Toronto Maple Leafs delivered some bad news Sunday as it was revealed forward Mitch Marner will miss at least four weeks with an ankle injury.
Marner sustained the injury Saturday during his team’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He fell awkwardly after getting tangled up with Carsen Twarynski early in the middle stanza.
Marner will be reassessed by the medical staff in four weeks, which means the Maple Leafs can stick him on the long-term injured reserve list. His salary will not count against the cap.
Toronto took on the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday and lost by a final score of 5-4 at the United Center. It was their first game without Marner since February of 2017.
“There’s no question, Mitch is a huge part of our team, a huge part of our success,” said captain John Tavares. “So, opportunity for guys to step up. I’m not expecting anybody to be Mitch, but as a group, we’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of talent to do the job we need to do.”
“He’s a big part of this team. He plays some key roles — special teams, five-on-five — he’s a special player,” Auston Matthews said. “He’s gonna be missed obviously, but those things happen. We gotta move on without him.”
That depth and talent was good for 57 shots on goal on Chicago’s Robin Lehner, by the way, but Marner’s absence was felt. The Blackhawks allowed a season-high shots against and you have to imagine a player of Marner’s skill and prowess would’ve made a difference.
To make matters worse, Toronto will play the majority of their Marner-less games on the road. And that means head coach Mike Babcock will have to come up with some answers. Jason Spezza got the call Sunday.
Sunday’s action also saw the unit of Matthews, William Nylander and Andreas Johnsson play extremely well, but Tavares dealt with a few wingers in Marner’s place. Kasperi Kapanen and Alexander Kerfoot were sampled on the right side, with Babcock admitting to trying a “different line for each period.”
If there’s good news, it’s that the Maple Leafs will get Zach Hyman back on Wednesday in Long Island. He had off-season knee surgery and will need time to adjust to this season, but he should be alongside Tavares as soon as possible.
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