What will red-hot Maple Leafs look like Monday?


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The Maple Leafs are in first place, enjoying the best start to a season in team history, closing in on home ice advantage in playoffs, with the league’s hottest goalie and the North Division’s top goal differential.

So, should Kyle Dubas just tinker a bit at the trade deadline or was Saturday’s night’s 6-5 win over Ottawa the last time a Leaf or two gets a pre-game high five from Mitch Marner in the tunnel?

The general manager positioned himself to at least run with the big dogs up to Monday’s 3 p.m. bell, first with the creative Riley Nash trade, that retains the balance of the Long Term Injury Reserve centre’s $2.75 million US salary for pursuit of a depth defenceman and another forward. That pot will be enhanced to between $6 million – $7 million if Frederik Andersen is judged unfit to come back from to a lower body injury, along with the taxi squad being tweaked.

The Leafs have not fully divulged Andersen’s issue. He was retroactively moved to LTIR Saturday, though if he gets better, Leafs can activate him sooner.

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“There’s no timeline on the injury,” coach Sheldon Keefe repeated Saturday morning. “It’s just really a matter of Fred being comfortable, where he’s at and how he’s feeling.”

Keefe held off any other roster comments for Dubas to make after the deadline.

As far as Leaf players are concerned, you sense they’re happy to have put their bosses in this pickle, under pressure to make the right deal and give an already very good club the extra tools for a long playoff run. Marner and Auston Matthews had four-point games, the latter a hat trick, Jack Campbell is now alone in the NHL books with 11 netminding victories to begin a season.

Of course, they’d like to stay together and see it through.

“I just love our team,” bubbled Campbell. “I’m not in charge, but I trust Kyle.”

“We try and accumulate wins, put the team in the best position possible, then you can’t control anything else,” said forward Alex Kerfoot. “We’re happy where we’re at, but know we haven’t accomplished anything yet. Whatever happens at the deadline, we’ll ride with that.”

Defenceman Jake Muzzin has seen a few deadlines from his position on a Stanley Cup contender with the Kings.

“If (playoff) pieces come, that’s great, (if people leave) it’s part of the business. I feel like this is the tightest group since I’ve been here, a lot of fun. Guys are gelling, we’ve had different lineups, guys come in and out and I still think we’re doing a really good job.”

CHECK YOUR DATES

The NHL’s announcement that the Canucks will re-open their facilities Sunday and start a re-jigged schedule next Friday has some implications for the Leafs. While Toronto’s original games in Vancouver April 17 and 19 remain on the books, the latter contest moves up to a 9 p.m. puck drop. The Canucks’ visit here that was to be April 30 is now April 29 at 7:30 p.m. and the trickle down effect of North Division play being extended to May 16 will see Toronto at Ottawa May 12 instead of May 10.

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MARLIES LOSE, BUT COOL COLE

The Marlies kept Montreal Canadiens’ star prospect Cole Caufield off the board Saturday, but Toronto’s farm team was still dealt a 4-3 home loss by the Laval Rocket. Caufield won the Hobey Baker Award Friday, then the Wisconsin star had a two-goal, three-point game that evening in his pro debut, a win over Toronto.

Saturday, the 5-foot-7 Caufield whom the Leafs might get to know soon, had three shots on goal, but no points.

The Marlies gave Ian Scott the start in net after the 2017 draft pick’s two-year lower body surgery/injury layoff and he made 24 saves.

“A lot of work went on behind the scenes,” Scott said. “After a while coming back, I was just able to roll with things.”

Tyler Gaudet had two goals for the Marlies.

LOOSE LEAFS

The Matthews’ goal rush moved him up to 189, passing Sid Smith, Ron Stewart and Busher Jackson and tying John Anderson for 14th place in franchise history. Marner’s 343rd point pushed him ahead of Original Six star Dick Duff for 29th spot in club annals … Alex Galchenyuk agreed getting bent over the boards on a heavy second period hit at his old team’s bench and getting taunted by a Senator or two, inspired him around the net on an ensuing Marner goal. “Hits like that and chirping are such a big part of the game, especially without no fans you hear it more. I was pretty fired up and we got a big goal” … Ex-Leaf Connor Brown set a modern Ottawa franchise record by scoring in his seventh straight game … Keefe confirmed part of the reason the Leafs like Nash, was what he did to Toronto while on the playoff roster of Boston in 2018 and Columbus last summer. Keefe on Nash: “He had a lot of shifts against out best players” … A Leaf hat trick with no hats thrown on the ice and play starting up right away is so weird. Could SBA not create a light show simulating the tradition? … But it was clever to have Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ at the ready when Ilya Mikheyev scored … New Senator Mike Amadio was Campbell’s roommate in L.A. for a year. He says among the goalie’s talents was being a fine cook, with a tasty dinner awaiting most nights … It was Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, the Leafs wearing lavender warm-up sweaters that will be auctioned off for Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium. Matthews wore skates honouring Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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