Marlies need added depth with Leafs in playoff contention and injuries still lingering, Komisarek sees opportunity

Jussi Rynnas is looking at a minimum of another month before he will play again

Jussi Rynnas is looking at a minimum of another month before he will play again- Image Courtesy of Christian at TSG Photo

TORONTO– Jussi Rynnas won’t see any action anytime soon and his coach doesn’t even have him on radar.

The 25-year-old goaltender has been sidelined since Mar. 23rd with an ankle sprain and hasn’t skated or been able to work out since, leaving Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins unsure of when he can play again.

“Jussi’s going to be a while,” said Eakins. “When a goalie has an ankle sprain, it’s never good. You can automatically add two weeks extra. So I’m not even thinking about him right now. He’s at least a month away, I’d guess.”

Another Marlie out with injury is Carter Ashton, who broke a bone in his foot over a month ago. The 21-year-old originally tried to play through it, but it wasn’t meant to be and has missed the last 12 games because of it.

“It’s a funky one because he’s able to walk around and do conditioning in the gym, just a real problem when he puts it in the boot,” said Eakins.

There is still no time line for Ashton’s return as he didn’t skate at practice on Tuesday.

Mike Komisarek, who requested to be placed on the Marlies after being a healthy scratch most this season with the Maple Leafs, doesn’t want to look at his current status as a downgrade, despite playing in the AHL for the first time since 2004 with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

“I didn’t see it as a demotion, more as an opportunity to play,” said Komisarek. At the end of the day I just wanted to play, compete and battle and work on my game. This was a good opportunity to work on my game, get some minutes and also help out with the young guys. You see a lot of these young guys and we were in their shoes.”

One of those young guys is defenceman Stuart Percy, who is getting a taste with the Marlies for the second time. The 19-year-old, who joined the Marlies at the end of last season as well, got in his first AHL game of the year on Apr. 6th and scored his first pro goal. As one of the two junior players that Eakins has for a second time round, the other being forward David Broll, Percy has some added comfort knowing what is involved for a rookie heading into an AHL post-season.

But, with only one game and two practices so far, Eakins said it was premature to start assessing the differences in the 25th selection from 2011 after spending the season with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.

“I’ll have to reserve judgement on that until he gets into a few more games, but he certainly hasn’t lost his poise with the puck,” said Eakins.

Forward Tyler Biggs, who was selected three spots ahead of Percy in 2011, was eliminated from OHL playoffs on Tuesday and flew to Abbotsford on Thursday to join the Marlies as they face the Heat on Friday. The 19-year-old is the fifth CHL prospect to be added to the Marlies in recent weeks, joining Percy Broll, defenceman Morgan Rielly and goaltender Garret Sparks.

Add in defenceman Andrew MacWilliam, who skated with the Marlies for the first time since leaving the University of North Dakota on Tuesday, Toronto’s roster is up to 30 players, including injured Rynnas and Ashton.

Biggs gives the Marlies 15 healthy forwards while MacWilliam puts the blue line at 11 options.

Eakins will have to do some shuffling and rotating to get everyone some playing time, which will be easier to do when Toronto secures a playoff berth, however the added depth may come in handy.

The Maple Leafs are currently in a playoff position and both clubs could be playing meaningful hockey in May, unlike the past. With the Leafs already having Ryan Hamilton and Joe Colborne called up, the Marlies roster isn’t going to be set in stone like last season when they pushed to the Calder Cup final.

“The one thing we have to remember as a group, things are different this year,” said Eakins. “Last year our big club was out of the playoffs. We knew we weren’t going to lose anyone to call up. This year the big club, like us, is trying for a playoff spot. Two call ups and an injury and we’re down three players, so we need depth.”

The Marlies play twice in Abbotsford on the weekend before returning home on Tuesday to host the Oklahoma City Barons.

KYLE CICERELLA

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