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Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin (52) battles with Boston Bruins right wing David Backes (42) during the second period at Scotiabank Arena on Oct 19, 2019. Marincin is well-liked and respected in the dressing room for his flexibility and work ethic.Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

There is nobody on the Maple Leafs as unheralded or as busy as Martin Marincin.

The Slovakian defenceman has been shuttled back and forth between the parent club and its AHL affiliate in Toronto 11 times this season. During one 12-day stretch in December alone, he made the cross-town journey from the big leagues to the minors on a half-dozen occasions.

He can be pardoned for not knowing if he is coming or going sometimes, but expresses no regret.

“The Maple Leafs are a good team and everybody is playing pretty well,” Marincin said this week after practice at Ford Performance Centre in a western Toronto suburb. “I understand the situation. I just try to be ready whenever I get a chance.”

Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by Edmonton, Marincin played in parts of two seasons with the Oilers and is now in the midst of his fifth in Toronto.

Filling in for the injured Jake Muzzin, he logged 16 minutes of ice time – a lot for him – in Saturday’s overtime loss to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Arena. He was in the lineup in Minnesota on Tuesday night and is set to play in a third-line pairing with Cody Ceci until Muzzin returns from a broken foot.

He is well-liked and respected in the dressing room for his flexibility and work ethic.

“We all know Martin is probably frustrated because he wants to play more, but he never shows it,” said Jason Spezza, the Maple Leafs’ 36-year-old centre. “What he does is important and very challenging.

“On one hand, he has to keep himself fresh. On the other hand, he knows he is going to judged by his performance every time he gets in. It’s difficult.”

Entering the week, Marincin had played in 24 games for the Maple Leafs with one goal and four assists. He has also appeared in eight games for the Marlies and has four points.

He is a borderline player in the NHL and has survived long enough at this level to get into 210 games. There is something admirable about that. For a highly skilled player such as Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner, it is not that difficult.

For the Martin Marincins of the sport, it is a constant struggle.

“I think I am stronger mentally after these last few years,” Marincin said. “The NHL has too many great young players and too many good players [to compete against]. It is the best league in the world. Everybody wants to play here.”

He is 27 and was born in Kosice, a city of 240,000 in eastern Slovakia near the border with Hungary. It is the same place where the tennis player Martina Hingis was born, although she grew up in Switzerland.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Marincin has a body for basketball, but he never wanted to do anything but play hockey.

“I love it and played everywhere outside after school as a kid,” he said. “It was my sport.”

It still is, and he plays it, if sparingly at times, at the highest level. He rarely stands out, although he received positive reviews for his performance against the Rangers.

“He has bounced around a little bit, but he remains confident,” said Sheldon Keefe, the Toronto coach. “His personality is a big thing, and he has a great attitude. The organization has treated him very well, and he respects that.”

Perhaps he would like to play more, but he we would never make waves. He smiled and simply deferred when he was asked about his relationship with Mike Babcock, who was fired and replaced by Keefe.

Marincin got married last summer and his wife is here with him now.

“She is taking good care of me,” he said.

Life is good. For now, he is in the NHL. He has a tenuous hold on a roster spot. He understands he will probably never be certain of a spot in the lineup, like Muzzin or Morgan Rielly.

“Sometimes my chance has come and perhaps I haven’t done as well as I would like,” he said. “That is hockey. I just work hard to be ready the next time.”

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