Conor Timmins’ dream-like performance in the pre-season has turned into a nightmare.
The Maple Leafs defenceman, who had shone in the past few weeks, will undergo an MRI on Saturday after absorbing a hit late in the Leafs’ victory in Montreal on Friday night.
“He is going to miss some time, he is going to be out for a bit,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said after Timmins was absent from on-ice workouts at the Ford Performance Centre.
Timmins had put himself thick in the battle for a top-six spot on the Toronto blue line, and through pre-season games on Friday, led the NHL in scoring with six points (two goals and four assists) in three games.
That followed a development path that saw him play in fewer games after the Leafs acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes last November. In February, the Leafs signed Timmins to a two-year, $2.2 million US contract, a clear indication that the club expected him to take the step to becoming a regular in 2023-24.
“Not just the camp he has had, he has worked incredibly hard, not just through training camp and the off-season, but even last season since his time coming to us,” Keefe said. “He has put in a lot of work and he has dealt with a lot of injuries along the way, so he is used to bouncing back from these things.
“I think the foundation he has put in with the work he has put in hopefully will allow him to have a quicker recovery and a quicker adjustment to get back up to game speed, but for sure, a guy like him who has worked so hard and is competing for a spot to have a setback is tough news for him and for us.”
Also absent on Saturday were goalie Joseph Woll, who has flu-like symptoms, defenceman John Klingberg, who is dealing with an upper-body injury and forward Dylan Gambrell, out with a concussion.
Forward William Nylander was practising after flu-like symptoms kept him off the ice on Friday.
Led by goalie Martin Jones and veteran defencemen Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe and TJ Brodie, the Leafs will be back at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday night for the team’s fifth of eight pre-season games.
Six forwards who played on Friday in the Leafs’ 2-1 win — Nick Abruzzese, Noah Gregor, Pontus Holmberg, Matthew Knies, Fraser Minten and Nick Robertson — will be in the Toronto lineup again.
Also making the trip is 2023 first-round pick Easton Cowan, whose eye-opening play through the pre-season gets another reward.
“Pretty excited to get there and see what the Bell Centre is about,” Cowan said. “I’ve never been there, but Minten was telling me last night, he said it was crazy. He’s excited to for me to be in tonight with him.”