The Toronto Maple Leafs hit the ice for practice on Saturday morning and there were a couple of interesting takeaways to take from their brief time on the ice ahead of their Saturday night match up against the Vancouver Canucks.
First, the big news of the day was the return of veteran defenseman Cody Ceci to the lineup. Ceci has been out of the line up for a significant length of time due to an ankle injury and with the Maple Leafs defense already missing both Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly the Leafs have been left scrambling for replacements, effectively fielding a group of defensemen that were recently members of their Toronto Marlies' blue line, the ir American Hockey League affiliate. Although Ceci did participate in practice, and was in fact paired up with Timothy Liljegren on Saturday, it sounds like he is still a little bit away from returning.
Ceci has yet to participate in a practice with full contact, but there is a silver lining here. According to comments Ceci made today it sounds like he may be ahead of schedule in his recovery and due to the aforementioned injuries the Leafs are currently dealing with on the blue line that could be a huge benefit to the team,
"It’s moving along pretty good," said Ceci on Saturday. "[Morning skate] was a nice step for me."
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe also used the morning skate to shuffle up his lines a little bit, notably placing Pierre Engvall on the team's fourth line alongside Denis Malgin and Frederik Gauthier. Recently acquired forward Alex Kerfoot once again found himself on the wing, with Maple Leafs captain John Tavares centering his line and with William Nylander playing on the opposite side of the ice on the opposing wing.
The decision to keep Kerfoot on the wing has been something of a controversial one given some of the success Kerfoot saw for the Maple Leafs earlier in the season while centering his own line, notably a combination with the aforementioned Pierre Engvall and Kasperi Kapanen saw some solid success against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That is relevant due to the fact that with the current standings the Leafs would be facing the Lightning in the very first round of the playoffs.
To be fair to Keefe here he may merely be looking for chemistry between players on his roster in the event that the Leafs will continue to have to deal with injuries, something that has plagued them this season.