Heading into a stretch where they’ll play 13 of 15 games on the road, the Maple Leafs will be without front-line winger Mitch Marner indefinitely.
Marner suffered a right ankle injury off the opening faceoff of the second period in the Leafs’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night. It’s bad enough to keep Marner home while the team plays in Chicago on Sunday night. How bad is another question.
“I mean, what are you gonna do,” coach Mike Babcock said after the game, in which Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier scored for the visitors in the shootout.
“I don’t know the extent — days, weeks. No sense dwelling on the negatives. Someone else gets an opportunity. Let’s go.”
On the play, Marner lined up beside Flyers winger Carsen Twarynski, who took Marner’s leg out from under him in a positional battle. Marner was in obvious pain as he tried to limp-crawl to the bench. Teammate Ilya Mikheyev leaned over the boards to help Marner, who was unable to put any weight on his right leg.
The injury comes with winger Zach Hyman, returning from off-season knee surgery, expected to make his season debut some time this coming week. The Leafs have not had their top line from a year ago — Marner, Hyman and John Tavares — together all season.
Against the Flyers, they moved Kasperi Kapanen up from the third line to take Marner’s place with Tavares and Trevor Moore. It’s likely that Kapanen will get to run with that assignment while Marner’s out.
Marner tested his leg out twice during a commercial break later in the second period and returned for a power play before leaving for good near the end of the frame.
Marner hasn’t missed a game since 2016-17, his rookie season. He played in 77 games that year.
- For the Leafs: They rallied furiously with Marner out. The Auston Matthews line with Andreas Johnsson and William Nylander was buzzing all night, and triggered all the offence in a 40-shot attack (32 in regulation). The Flyers went up 2-0 on goals by Philippe Myers and Oskar Lindblom before Nylander sent a perfect pass from the side boards to set up Travis Dermott’s first goal of the season. Nylander then tied the game off a terrific, behind-the-net setup from Matthews.
- Trick shot artist: Matthews and other Leafs have been itching to try to replicate the lacrosse goal scored by Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov on Oct. 29. Matthews actually tried to get the puck to roll up on his stick so he could attempt to stuff it in against the Flyers “but it didn’t get on my stick, so I passed it.” The pass led to one of his two assists on the night. “They were our best (line) tonight. In the first period, they were the only line to generate,” Babcock said of the Matthews line.
- Nylander heats up: Nylander scored the Leafs’ lone goal in the shootout, finishing one of his best games of the season. He has two goals and three assists over his last five games and has registered at least one point in 11 of 18 games this season.
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- Earning ice time: Dermott jumped up against the end glass in celebration after his goal, which came after he had his minutes reduced in the third period of the Leafs’ win over Vegas on Thursday. “I don’t think about that much,” Babcock said of the ice-time reduction. “I just figure (Dermott) is the last player to come back, he’s got to earn the confidence of (assistant coach Dave Hakstol) … He’s got to sort things out.”
- Up next: The Leafs finish a back-to-back Sunday night in Chicago, 7 p.m. start.
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