Leafs keeping Sosh­nikov in pur­ga­tory for now

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY

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.

Tall or­der

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

TORONTO SUN FILES

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.

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