The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to mix things up with their struggling special teams, as the club practiced with some revamped power play units prior to leaving for Newark, where they play the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
The Leafs have gone four for their last 34 opportunities on the man advantage, in part because their opposition has adjusted to Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews using the cross-ice pass to create scoring chances.
The first unit has been slightly augmented, with Kasperi Kapanen joining John Tavares, Nazem Kadri, Marner and Morgan Rielly, while Matthews has been shifted to play with Patrick Marleau, William Nylander, Andreas Johnsson and Jake Gardiner.
These combos are quite similar to what was used for most of last season, with Tavares and Kapanen replacing James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, and the second unit being identical to what was used late in the year when Johnsson was recalled from the American Hockey League.
Toronto injured players are getting closer to returning. Zach Hyman, who skated alongside linemates Tavares and Marner for the first time since his ankle injury against the Devils on December 18, will get back into the lineup on Thursday, while Frederik Andersen said that things were progressing with his groin injury and that he will make his return against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Trevor Moore and Kasimir Kaskisuo were sent back to the Toronto Marlies on Tuesday and if Andersen cannot backup starter Michael Hutchinson in New Jersey, Kaskisuo will likely get the call up on an emergency basis.
Kyle Dubas may be starting to get some of his ducks in a row for the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline, as the Leafs GM is currently over in Russia on a scouting trip.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and reporter Igor Eronko, Dubas may be checking in on 2016 second rounder Yegor Korshkov and possibly teammate Alexander Yelesin.
The 22-year-old has played two years with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL since being selected 31st overall in 2016 and has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury. Korshkov was slated to come to North America this summer but signed for another year in Russia (most likely because of the stockpile of winger prospects with the Marlies).
The club has another year to get Korshkov locked up on an entry-level contract before their rights expire and it is possible that Dubas wants to evaluate the big winger before moving prospects in a potential deadline deal.
Yelesin, 22, went undrafted and is in his second season with Lokomotiv. The 5’11”, 192 lb. defenseman is right-handed and has been compared for former NHLer Darius Kasparitius because of his toughness and penchant for throwing hits.
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