Ilya Samsonov will be in the Maple Leafs’ net on Sunday afternoon when the club plays host to the Washington Capitals.
As for the status of Matt Murray, the Leafs are not certain.
Murray was undergoing further tests on Saturday for an ankle injury that reared up and kept him from making a start against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
Samsonov was given a maintenance day on Saturday and did not practise at the Ford Performance Centre.
With the Toronto Marlies playing in Manitoba, the Leafs used three amateur goalies, including regular participant Andrew D’Agostini, for practice.
“It has been something that he has been dealing with for a while and it had settled,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He had been going through his workouts fine, but it had flared up on him a little bit and he didn’t feel comfortable playing, the medical team held him out.”
The Leafs had been wary of starting Samsonov against Ottawa, considering his recent heavy workload. As it went, Samsonov got no support from teammates in a 6-2 shellacking, the Leafs’ worst home game of the season.
Against Washington, Samsonov will start for the sixth game in a row and make his seventh consecutive appearance after relieving Murray versus Florida on Jan. 17.
“From his perspective, he would like to play every day, so I don’t think that’s a big deal that way,” Keefe said of Samsonov. “It is important for us to manage it as best we can, but given the circumstances, we’re going to get him back in there. We wanted him to have the day off yesterday, it didn’t work out that way. But we want him to play tomorrow for sure.”
The Leafs had not officially recalled a goalie from the Marlies, as Keefe said they were waiting to get further word on Murray’s status. Still, it would be odd if neither Joseph Woll nor Erik Kallgren got the call to join the team in Toronto.
It appears defenceman TJ Brodie will make his return after he missed 10 games with a rib injury. Brodie was paired with Morgan Rielly at practice and said that as long as he got through the next 24 hours without a setback, he figured on playing. Brodie has been out since he was hurt against Detroit on Jan. 7.
And the game against Washington will mark 1,000 in the NHL for John Tavares. The Leafs captain said he expected between 60-70 family and friends to be in attendance.
“A lot of hard work and perseverance, and a lot of fun,” Tavares said of his journey. “You love to play this game as a kid and dream about playing in the NHL. And to think that you get to do it for the 1,000th time is pretty remarkable. Don’t take that for granted.”’