NHL Buzz: Marner, Sandin to return for Maple Leafs against Senators

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Mitchell Marner and Rasmus Sandin will each return from injury when the Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, CITY, TVAS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

Marner, a forward who has scored 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 24 games, missed six games with a shoulder injury sustained in a collision with defenseman Jake Muzzin in practice Dec. 3.

Sandin, a defenseman who has eight assists in 25 games, missed four games with a knee injury sustained in a collision with defenseman Neal Pionk in a 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 5.

Forward William Nylander, Muzzin and defenseman Morgan Rielly are each game-time decisions. All three were removed from NHL COVID-19 protocol Friday and participated in Toronto’s optional morning skate.

“They’re on the ice now so we won’t know until at least they get off the ice and continue to go through the process to see how they felt,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. — Dave McCarthy

 

Montreal Canadiens

Brendan Gallagher was not in the lineup for the Canadiens against the Florida Panthers.

The forward sustained a lower-body injury in a 4-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

The Canadiens dressed 11 forwards and five defensemen against the Panthers after forward Jake Evans and defenseman Alexander Romanov were placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Saturday.

Montreal has 16 players in protocol: the other 14 are forwards Brandon Baddock, Paul Byron, Laurent DauphinMike Hoffman, Artturi Lehkonen and Tyler Toffoli; defensemen Louie Belpedio, Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Gianni Fairbrother, Jeff Petry, and Chris Wideman; and goalies Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau.

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Jujhar Khaira could return to play against the Nashville Predators (2 p.m. ET; BSSO, NBCSCH, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

The forward has not played since he was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a hit by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba in a 6-2 loss on Dec. 7 and had been in concussion protocol.

“Even when [Khaira] first practiced, came back on the ice and guys saw him, you could see the guys light up,” Blackhawks coach Derek King said Friday. “I’m looking forward to having him back, I know the team is. He can’t go out there and I call it, ‘Forrest Gump’ game. If you watch the movie, he did so much in how long, 2 ½ hours? I don’t need [Khaira] going out there, trying to be the hero and solve our problems in three periods. He has to play his game and manage it.”

Khaira has scored two goals in 18 games this season.

Forward Henrik Borgstrom (non-COVID illness) also could play. He’s scored three points (two goals, one assist) in 17 games.

Goalie Kevin Lankinen was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Friday. — Tracey Myers

 

Buffalo Sabres

Don Granato returned to coach the Buffalo Sabres against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Granato was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Dec. 26 and missed two games. The Sabres were 0-1-1 under assistant Matt Ellis, who coached the team in Granato’s absence.

“Really good, actually,” Granato said of how he feels. “The symptoms I had the morning and day after I took the last vaccine was much more severe than what I experienced through this. Basically, I didn’t feel much. I was maybe a little lethargic maybe for a day and ready to go. So I’m pretty excited to be back and extremely excited and grateful. I feel very, very sure the vaccination did its work for me. So I’m very grateful for that.”

Granato, who is a cancer survivor and in October 2019 was hospitalized with severe pneumonia, admitted he was “very concerned” upon getting the news of the positive test.

“I think going through it at times, I guess your faith that kicks in that whatever you’re going to deal with you’re going to deal with, you’re going to get through it,” he said. Fortunately, like I said, everything was so mild for me I’m very grateful for that. Having experienced some things that I don’t want to experience, I was very grateful, you hear the word ‘COVID,’ you see a positive test, your mind can go places that you don’t want it to. I did my best to not let it go there and I felt good all the way through.” — Heather Engel

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Jeff Carter entered NHL COVID-19 protocol Friday for the second time this season.

The center previously missed three games in protocol from Oct. 23-28. Carter is fifth on the Penguins with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 27 games.

Carter’s absence leaves Pittsburgh without three centers for its next scheduled game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

Evgeni Malkin, the second-line center when healthy, is nearing a return from knee surgery June 4, but will not play. Teddy Blueger, who had been third line center, is also in COVID protocol.

Forward Dominik Simon and defensemen John Marino and Mike Matheson were removed from protocol Saturday.

Pittsburgh has four players in protocol: Carter, Blueger, forward Kasperi Kapanen and goalie Tristan Jarry.

Evan Rodrigues was placed in protocol Monday and was removed Friday. He has been first-line left wing in place of Jake Guentzel (upper body), who could return with first-line right wing Bryan Rust (lower body) against San Jose.

The Penguins are also without second-line left wing Jason Zucker, who is week to week with a lower-body injury. — Wes Crosby

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