The Maple Leafs headed off for Sweden on Monday night where they will face the Red Wings on Friday and Wild on Sunday as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
The 6,300-kilometre trip comes on the heels of a 3-2 homestand that ended with back-to-back victories over Calgary and Vancouver that boosted the club’s record to 8-5-2, and its confidence as well.
“Sometimes a disruption comes at a good time, sometimes you just want to keep going,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said hours before Toronto embarked for Stockholm. “It is not often that you get a break like this in the NHL, so we are going to try to make the best of it.
“Quite honestly it is not unlike any road trip. When it is time to work, it is time to work.”
The team will practice shortly after it arrives on Tuesday as the process to get used to the six-hour time difference begins.
“The first couple of days will be tough,” Keefe said.
The trip amounts to a welcome home party for the Maple Leafs’ Swedish contingent of Calle Jarnkrok, John Klingberg and William Lagesson. William Nylander was born in Calgary when his dad, Michael, played for the Flames and is also of Swedish extraction.
There is no doubt Nylander, who has a franchise record with at least one point in each of the first 15 games, will receive royal treatment from local fans. As of Monday he was tied for fourth in the NHL with 10 goals and 22 points and was named the NHL’s third star of the week.
“I am sure he is going to be a rock star there,” Max Domi, the forward, said.
Domi has yet to score in regulation time but has nine assists and had the winning goal in a shootout against Calgary. He also jumped to the defence of Nicholas Robertson on Saturday after he received a hard hit from Ian Cole of the Canucks.
“When you see your buddy get hit, it is just an instinct and a reaction,” Domi said. “As a teammate you have to answer the bell.”
In the same contest, Mark Giordano, Toronto’s 40-year-old defenceman, exchanged punches with Vancouver tough guy Dakota Joshua after the latter knocked down David Kampf. Kampf’s face is swollen and he sat out practice on Monday.
“It was just one of those situations,” Giordano said. “You see your teammate down on the ice and fighting is called for in that situation.”
At 40 years and 39 days, Giordano became the oldest player in Maple Leafs history to record a fighting major. The Leafs’ previous oldest pugilist was Tim Horton at 40 years and 20 days in 1970.
“He loves the game and he loves his teammates and he loves competing,” Keefe said of Giordano, who was serenaded by the crowd with chants of ‘Gio.’
“It is what the game called for in that moment. He is a special guy. He gives absolutely everything that he has.”
The defenceman Conor Timmins, who has been out for six weeks with a lower-body injury, is likely to make his season debut in Sweden. The rules for the series allow each team to bring three goalies, so Martin Jones joins Joseph Woll and Ilya Samsonov but the veteran netminder is not expected to play. He is 2-1 for the Marlies, Toronto’s affiliate in the American Hockey League.
John Tavares, the Maple Leafs captain, looked forward to the trip.
“It is good to see a different perspective and a different culture, to experience the game in a different way,” Tavares said.
He expected Nylander to take his teammates out for sightseeing excursions and likely to be mobbed by fans along the way.
“He is going to get a lot of love and rightfully so, as all of our Swedes will,” Tavares said.