TORONTO- This weekend could be the most important one all season for the Toronto Marlies as they play three North-Division games, in three days, including two in Rochester against the Americans.
The Americans are eight points behind Toronto for top spot in the Division, and have a game in hand, so the Marlies can either separate from the pack or end up fighting for a playoff spot into the final week of the season.
A few notes and musings going into the weekend.
With Jussi Rynnas and, now, Ben Scrivens getting called up to the Leafs, the Marlies are left without a second goalie. At Wednesday’s practice 18-year-old Blake Richard of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs suited up for some shots but he won’t join the club for the mini road trip. Toronto will bring up Mark Owuya from the ECHL’s Reading Royals before then if Scrivens does not rejoin the Marlies in time…..Owuya would have been called up already if Reading wasn’t in a playoff push of their own. They currently sit 8th in their conference and Owuya has won his last four starts including a 37-save and 55-save shutout. He may be the deciding factor if that club sees post-season so Toronto does not want to bring him up until they have to…..Kenny Ryan has been returned to the Royals for their playoff drive. He managed to stay in Toronto for an extra couple games after Ryan Hamilton and Nazem Kadri moved up to the Leafs but with them returning he was pushed out of the line up…..Another forward added to the Marlies roster on Wednesday was University of Maine’s Spencer Abbott. Listed at only 5’9″, the Hamilton, Ontario native doesn’t fit the typical Brian Burke mold but he led all NCAA players in scoring with 21 goals and 62 points in 39 games. He’s expected to be in the line up this weekend but on which line is unclear…..David Broll made his pro debut last Saturday against the Lake Erie Monsters but it isn’t likely he’ll get into the line up again any time soon…..Sondre Olden has yet to participate in a full practice with the Marlies but is skating in Toronto. He, like Broll, are both too far back on a depth chart for a team making a run for the playoffs……Matt Lashoff continues to be ahead of rehab schedule and is skating in drills on his own. He wants to be back for playoffs but it’s still too early to tell…..After six seasons in the AHL, Ryan Hamilton made his NHL last Thursday against the New Jersey Devils three weeks short of his 27th birthday. Asked if he had ever lost any hope of making it to the big show he said he found inspiration in guys like Joey Crabb, Darryl Boyce and Joel Ward. Ward and Hamilton were teammates with the Houston Aeros before Ward made his NHL debut at 26. This past off season, at 31, Ward signed a four-year $12 million dollar deal with the Washington Capitals.
An NHL debut always has memories and for Lashoff his weren’t quite as special as Hamiltons were. In 2006 the Boston Bruins summoned him from their affiliate in Providence and when he showed up in his old Jeep security refused to let him into the team parking lot. He had no ID to prove he should have been there and pleaded to be let in by showing the team patch on his hockey bag; it worked…..While Lashoff says his Jeep was a major part of the problem, Scrivens doesn’t seem to have an issue getting his 1998 Chevy pick up truck in the underground garage at the Air Canada Centre. Scrivens proudly admits his truck was the best $3500 purchase he ever made. If he signs a larger contract in the summer, let’s see what he’s driving then…..Crabb is an unrestricted free agent this off-season and he said after Wednesday’s practice he hopes his agent can work out a quick deal with Toronto and he’ll instantly sign back. For his sake he should hope that it isn’t another two-way contract. Too many AHL rules for a 28-year-old and if by chance he ended up with the Marlies again he would only be able to make a maximum of $105 000 because he played more than 40 NHL games this season…..With the Leafs officially eliminated from post-season play, the count down is on for the return of Jake Gardiner, Jay Rosehill, Carter Ashton and Matt Frattin. All elgible for the Marlies’ Calder Cup run.