The Toronto Maple Leafs are missing a No. 1 goaltender again.
Only this time, there won’t be nearly as much speculation that they need to pull off a blockbuster trade to fill the void.
The Leafs received mostly good news on Tuesday on starter James Reimer’s injury, as after a battery of tests, the team announced he had suffered only “a mild medial collateral ligament knee strain” when he left Monday’s 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The early diagnosis is that Reimer will be out “a minimum of one week,” a timeline that, in the best case scenario, would mean he only misses the next four games.
What has really quelled any talk of a need to acquire Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks, however, is the fact that Reimer has a .929 save percentage 13 games into the season.
Add to that Toronto’s 8-5-0 start heading into Thursday’s road game in Carolina and solid fill-in play from backup Ben Scrivens and there’s a sense of confidence among the Leafs that they can survive a fourth key player – Joffrey Lupul, Carl Gunnarsson and Jake Gardiner being the others – going down to injury.
“We’re happy with the way things are going; we’ve won four in a row now,” Leafs centre Tyler Bozak said as the team made a charity appearance at SickKids Hospital in Toronto on a rare day off the ice. “We’re starting to come around as a team. With the short season, we have to keep it going and not have any lapses.”
“The last two games were two of the better games I’ve seen our team play since I’ve come here,” said Lupul, who was wearing a cast and remains at least three more weeks away from returning from a broken forearm. “It’s really nice to see what the guys are doing. There’s definitely some belief there that we can really be a good team.”
If there’s a concern for the Leafs, it’s the precedent set last year when Reimer went down with an injury.
After a strong first five games, he suffered a concussion in the sixth and ultimately only made 34 starts, many of which came as he was still struggling with the after effects of the head injury.
After sitting in playoff position much of the year thanks to a 9-3-1 start, the Leafs crashed out of the race in dramatic fashion by finishing the season with only seven wins in their last 29 games.
Because Reimer’s knee injury is only to be so short term, however, its impact on the season should be far less signficant.
Rather than pull off a trade to compensate for his absence, the organization acquired minor-league netminder Drew MacIntyre on loan for the Toronto Marlies and is expected to call up 6-foot-5 Finnish prospect Jussi Rynnas on Wednesday.
Rynnas – nicknamed “The Bus” due to his size – was shelled in very brief NHL duty last season and has had an up-and-down acclimation to North America over the last three AHL seasons, playing just 68 games with the Marlies in that span.
His average numbers (including a .914 save percentage entering Tuesday’s AHL game) could mean Scrivens gets all of the starts over the next week, even as the Leafs play four games in six days beginning Thursday.
“If something happens like that, I’m ready to go,” Rynnas said of being recalled. “I know how good I can be.”
“He’s just kind of getting into a groove getting regular starts,” Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said. “His play has been adequate. But this is a guy who hasn’t played a whole lot due to injury and due to Scrivens having that No. 1 job.”