Rather than wait for the questions, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle simply produced a list of updates on his injured players.
He’s become pretty accustomed to the drill of late, which on Thursday incorporated centre Tyler Bozak, enforcer Colton Orr and winger Phil Kessel, only one of whom will be available to face the Dallas Stars.
“I’m going to update all our injuries so you guys don’t have to rapid fire [with questions],” Carlyle told the media. “Phil Kessel will play tonight. Colton Orr had a procedure on his elbow; he will not play. Tyler Bozak had an MRI and has an oblique strain so he will be out an extended period of time.”
The Leafs injuries have been well documented this season, and while the team remains roughly in the middle of the pack in the NHL in terms of man-games lost, what hurts is that all of losses continue to come from their forwards.
Orr, for example, is one of only seven Leafs forwards to play in more than 18 of their 28 games this season.
Orr and Bozak join Joffrey Lupul (day-to-day with groin tear) and Dave Bolland (indefinitely with cut ankle tendon) on injured reserve, opening a spot for Nazem Kadri to take over the top line centre role.
To fill Orr’s spot in the bottom six, Toronto recalled winger Jerry D’Amigo from the AHL, who will likely make his NHL debut against the Stars.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to get my first shot here,” said D’Amigo, a 22-year-old from Binghamton, N.Y., who has logged more than 200 games with the Toronto Marlies without getting a call. “Hopefully I’m not too nervous.”
D’Amigo is a curious choice given the Leafs inability to score lately – with only 18 even strength goals during their current 14-game slide – but he has been part of a strong Marlies penalty kill unit for years and his speed should be able to help in that department.
The Leafs, one of the best shorthanded teams in the league last season, are down to 25th in the league this season after allowing 12 goals on the penalty kill in their last 10 games. They have killed only 65 per cent of their penalties off in that span.
With four games this week, Toronto had only an optional skate on Thursday, so there are quite a few uncertainties as to how Carlyle will reshape his lineup.
“It’s very frustrating and disappointing that we’re going through the rash of injuries that we are now,” Carlyle said. “But it’s really not time to talk about the injured players. It’s time to talk about the players that we have in the lineup.
“Did we ever think Trevor Smith was going to be the guy that he has been for our club this year? That’s a positive. Now we have an opportunity for Peter Holland to step into our lineup and play a more offensive role… The focus has to go on the players that are playing.”
Jonathan Bernier is expected to start in goal for the Leafs, who will face Stars No. 1 Kari Lehtonen and his .928 save percentage in the other goal.
Stars centre Tyler Seguin is questionable to play due to a concussion but was on the ice at the morning skate.
Here’s a best guess as to the group Carlyle goes with (keeping in mind that seven D may be a possibility):
JVR – Kadri – Kessel
Raymond – Smith – Clarkson
D’Amigo – Holland – Kulemin
McLaren – McClement – Ashton
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Gardiner – Franson
Rielly – Ranger/Fraser