The Toronto Maple Leafs are battling some early injuries on their blueline, and it seems that their current situation has led the team to embrace some more unconventional strategies to fill out their defense. As relayed by Sports Illustrated’s David Alter, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said that the team is currently exploring different ways to utilize forward Mitch Marner on defense in certain situations. Keefe specifically cited a late-game situation where the team is down a goal as an example of the sort of situation where it could be appropriate to deploy Marner on the blueline.
While such an idea might seem extremely unorthodox or even desperate to some, but there is at least some precedent for these tryouts in the NHL. Legendary coach Scotty Bowman briefly experimented with using Hall of Fame forwards such as Sergei Fedorov and Bob Gainey on the blueline during his coaching career. Marner, a winger who has a well-regarded defensive game, could potentially carry on that tradition if the Maple Leafs’ poor injury luck continues.
Now, for some other notes from across the NHL:
- As relayed by Ryan Novozinsky of NJ.com, New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff told the media that the team will be without captain Nico Hischier as he recovers from a hamstring strain. Hischier was pulled out of Monday’s preseason contest against the Montreal Canadiens due to what the team called cramping, and now it seems the injury is a bit more significant than it originally had seemed to be. Ruff said that Hischier will be re-evaluated in ten days, and at that point the full picture of Hischier’s health will likely be a lot more clear.
- The NHL Department of Player Safety announced today that Los Angeles Kings forward Jacob Doty will have a hearing tomorrow related to interference he committed on San Jose Sharks forward Jeffrey Viel in last night’s 3-1 preseason Sharks victory. While Doty is playing in Kings preseason games and attending camp, he is undoubtedly a depth piece for Los Angeles. Doty had just three points in 41 AHL games last season to go along with 89 penalty minutes, so while this disciplinary hearing is an unfortunate development it’s unlikely to have any major impact on where Doty is playing this season.