Bobby McMann did everything but score with the Maple Leafs, so getting two on Saturday should count towards his hopes for eventual recall.
But it’s a crowded house at Coca-Cola Coliseum, lots of Marlies who’ve been with the Leafs and awaiting their next chance or yet to see the NHL this season.
The Leafs have 31 wins, their farm team 30, both impressive totals after the Marlies’ weekend split with the Laval Rocket. That the Leafs had some setbacks prior to the all-star break means plenty of motivation around CCC.
Checking centre Pontus Holmberg and netminder Joseph Woll were demoted for salary cap reasons while the Leafs are off, but prior to that, forwards McMann and Dryden Hunt distinguished themselves as role players, while winger Adam Gaudette craves his chance to get back in the NHL.
“Definitely the hope is to finish those chances if I get another opportunity,” said McMann, who had no points in eight Leafs games, but now has 10 goals and seven assists in 19 Marlies outings. “It’s trusting I’m going to get them and that if I work and compete, they would go in.
“There is always competition, always guys vying for spots, it’s just the business we live in. But when we’re here, we’re trying to win games.”
McMann’s first goal was short-handed, while Hunt also scored in Saturday’s 7-3 loss. Coach Greg Moore must always be on guard for demoted players sulking or those yet to get a call who are feeling frustrated, but says that has not been an issue.
“They’re all athletes, all wanting to get to where their goals and dreams are. But what’s special is while they’re here, they don’t show that kind of body language that would allude to them being (self-absorbed).
“That’s why we’ve been successful, why the culture is good, why team leadership has not allowed that to happen if that was the case.”
ADAM AWAITS TURN
Holmberg, McMann, Hunt, Gaudette and Alex Steeves all dressed for both weekend games, including Friday’s 4-1 win. Steeves had a three-point weekend and has points in four straight games. Gaudette is a goal shy of 20 in the AHL, but this is still an adjustment for him after 218 total NHL games with three teams.
“I’m not worried about getting up there right now, when the time comes I will,” Gaudette insisted. “I want to try and help this team win, I love every one of these guys and having a blast playing with them.
“Where my game’s at now is probably the best it has ever been. Credit to the development staff, I’ve come a long way, even since last year.”
Steeves appeared in three games for the Leafs in 2021-22.
“He’s been awesome, these last four games I think are four of his best this season,” Moore said. “He’s really driven to be an impactful player and problem solving all year what that is for himself. It’s showing up for him now on the scoresheet and he’s really hard to play against.”
ROCK AND WOLL
With Friday night’s 25-save effort, Woll improved to 13-1-0 with a .930 save percentage and will perhaps play the opener of the back-to-back for the Leafs against the Blue Jackets Friday in Columbus. That depends on Matt Murray, who has been away from practice and game action more than two weeks with a sore ankle and it’s unlikely he’s rushed back in.
It seems some rust has set in with Keith Petruzzelli, who had such a promising start in October with Woll hurt that he earned a brief promotion to the Leafs. Not in a game since Boxing Day, he gave up the first shot he faced Sunday and some big rebounds as Laval took a 4-1 lead on 15 shots. He was pulled for Erik Kallgren.
Moore, Woll, Marlie captain Logan Shaw and defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer are all off to the AHL al-star game in Laval on Monday night … Shaw’s assist Saturday gave him a career high 52 points and puts him fourth in AHL scoring … On Friday, Markham native Joseph Blandisi reached 400 games as a pro, including 101 with three NHL teams and 84 with the Marlies. “It’s all led me to where I am today, and I’m happy to be home, playing for my hometown team. I hope there’s more to come”. Of note, Blandisi was picked in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by Colorado, one spot ahead of Buffalo taking current NHL wins and save percentage leader Linus Ullmark, now with Boston.
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