March 17, 2015
TORONTO— The Marlies blue-line could get a boost as early as this Friday when Toronto faces the Lake Erie Monsters.
Tom Nilsson has missed the past 20 games with an upper-body injury believed to be his shoulder, but has been skating at practice for two weeks. On Tuesday the 21-year-old was dressed in a regular contact jersey and took part in full team drills.
The native of Sweden last suited up on Jan. 10 and his original timeline for returning was set at six weeks.
“He’s very close, we still haven’t had medical clearance but the ways he’s skated and the way he’s performed in practice, he’s ready to go in my mind,” said Marlies head coach Gord Dineen. “And I know he’s been chompin’ at the bit for a while too.”
While Nilsson, who the Maple Leafs selected 100th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, could be back in the lineup as early as this weekend, the same cannot be said for fellow first-year defenceman Matt Finn.
The 21-year-old has been sidelined since being on the wrong end of a hit against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Feb. 13 and is nowhere close to being able to play. He’s listed with an undisclosed upper-body injury and isn’t skating with the team or on his own.
“He’s progressing, this type of injury you just want to be sure he’s OK,” said Dineen. “He’s made progress in the last week or so. So we are hopeful to have him soon.”
Finn, Toronto’s second pick and 35th overall in 2012, has had a difficult rookie season with the Marlies after starting the year with a different injury that cost him seven games. After healing up from that one, which was listed as lower-body, he was sent down to the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL before returning to Toronto in late October. Before his most recent setback he was playing alongside veteran Brendan Mikkelson.
In 24 games with the Marlies, the OHL graduate has produced one goal and one assist.
Nilsson, meanwhile, has one goal and six points in 36 contests with Toronto. Prior to his injury he was paired up with Andrew MacWilliam as part of the club’s main shut-down duo. When he returns he most likely will be put with fellow Swede Viktor Loov and be added to the penalty kill.
Currently MacWilliam and T.J. Brennan are with the Leafs, leaving the Marlies with only six healthy defenceman— including recent free-agent signing Reggie Traccitto, who made his AHL debut this weekend. The 25-year-old spent the past five years with the University of Prince Edward Island after a four-year stint in the OHL.