The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that forward Ben Smith has been placed on injured reserve with an upper body injury. In his place, the team has called up forward Byron Froese. Froese is expected to be back in the lineup when the Leafs face the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow night.
Smith was originally considered day-to-day after sustaining an injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, but after missing Toronto’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, a 3-2 loss on Tuesday night, as well as practice every day this week, he has been transferred to IR. Smith is currently in his second stint with the Maple Leafs within the calendar year. Smith was originally traded to Toronto at the NHL Trade Deadline last year in the James Reimer deal with the San Jose Sharks. He scored six points in 16 games to finish off the 2015-16 season. However, Smith then chose to sign a one-year, two-way deal with the Colorado Avalanche late this summer. After just four games in Denver, without recording a point, Smith was placed on waivers and promptly scooped up yet again by the Leafs. In 24 games thus far, mostly spent on the Leafs’ checking line, Smith has two goals and an assist. While his absence may not affect Toronto much on the scoreboard, Smith is known as a character guy and is a favorite of coach Mike Babcock. He will be missed in the Leafs’ locker room while he recovers from injury.
In his stead, Froese returns to the lineup after playing in 56 games in his rookie season last year. A strong-willed player who has had to work his way through years of AHL and ECHL action to get his NHL shot, Froese bring a much-needed intensity to the Toronto lineup. Froese was nearly a point-per-game player with the AHL Marlies in 2014-15 and was on a similar pace this season, earning a call up to the big league squad after failing to make the team out of camp. Though he was only able to score five points in limited action for the Maple Leafs in 2015-16, Froese has a chance to easily top those numbers on a superior Toronto team this season if he can carve out a role for himself and stay at the NHL level.