Leafs keeping Soshnikov in purgatory for now
Nikita Soshnikov is still in purgatory, somewhere between the Air Canada Centre and Ricoh Coliseum.
With his AHL conditioning stint up on Sunday with the Marlies, Soshnikov remains on the NHL injured reserve list, permitting Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello to head off a roster decision.
Eyebrows were raised Monday when Soshnikov wasn’t cleared to play. Coming off a lower-body injury, Soshnikov looked fine on the farm, with two goals, three assists and 17 shots in five games, but Lamoriello told reporters the Leafs were not circumventing any CBA rules, as the player had never been taken off IR, a juggling act other NHL teams have pulled off this year.
Activating Soshnikov would have put the Leafs one man over the roster limit of 23 and though the team could’ve sent winger Kasperi Kapanen back without waivers, he’s played too well to be taken out.
That would leave one of two forwards who’d have to be risked on waivers or be traded, Josh Leivo or Matt Martin, with the club not wanting to lose either man.
At some point, Soshnikov will have to be assessed by a doctor, but the Leafs might be able to stretch this saga out a couple of weeks until closer to the Feb. 26 trade deadline when Soshnikov is moved or others are swapped to re-open a roster spot. Soshnikov also has a contract clause allowing him to return to play in Russia if he’s not on an NHL roster, however coach Mike Babcock had endorsed his NHL future with Toronto.
Auston Matthews has faced Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning as an opponent and sat with him in the Atlantic Division all-stars dressing room.
“He’s big, you can all see that,” Matthews said of Vasilevskiy. “Most of the time, you’re not going to beat him off just one shot, you have to get guys in front of him and get second chances.”
Matthews, Babcock and many Leafs could not help but look at Monday and Saturday in Pittsburgh for that matter as “measuring stick” games against possible playoff opponents.
“Any time you’re playing good teams you want to know where you’re at,” Babcock said. “We’ve been lucky, we’ve had a lot of good teams in (Nashville and Anaheim as part of this home stand) and this will be a fun week for us.
“Bottom line, we feel we can get better.”
Danish flame burning
Frederik Andersen tried to help Denmark’s hockey team get in the Olympics, but even if they’d made it, no NHLers are in South Korea. So the goalie has taken on the role of cheerleader.
“We have a couple of curling teams and some skiers,” Andersen said. “I try and have some of the Olympics on TV when I’m at home, but the time difference makes it a little tough. I’ll cheer if I catch some of them.” LHornby@postmedia.com
Nikita Soshnikov has been playing well for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, but has not been cleared to return to the Maple Leafs as he is still on injured reserve — a designation that has raised some eyebrows.