Not everything was perfect in the Maple Leafs 5-1 win over the Canucks on Saturday.
Wayne Simmonds, off to a reinvigorated start with the Leafs, broke his wrist in the game and will miss the next six weeks, head coach Sheldon Keefe announced on Monday.
Simmonds, who has five goals and 22 penalty minutes in 12 games, took a puck off the wrist Saturday.
“Wayne has been awesome,” Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot told reporters on Monday. “He’s a lot of fun to be around in the locker room, he’s got a lot of experience. Plays hard every day, comes to the rink and is consistent. We’re going to miss him out there.”
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Joe Thornton, expected to miss at least another week with fractured ribs, slotted into Simmonds typical spot on the second line during the pregame skate on Monday. He could fill in there once he returns while Simmonds recovers.
“(Simmonds) is a big loss for us. We do think there is progress here for both Thornton and (Nick) Robertson,” Keefe said to reporters. “In Jumbo’s case in particular, we know that he brings a lot to us and he’ll help insulate some of that loss. He’s similar in terms of personality and experience on our bench.”
Simmonds, 32, signed a $1.5 million deal in the offseason to play for his hometown Leafs. He was having another excellent game when he was injured on Saturday. He’d scored twice before the third period, when a flying puck heading out of the zone for a clearance attempt caught him in the wrist.
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Filling in for Simmonds
After tallying just eight goals total last season, Simmonds has found new life in Toronto, especially since moving up to play with John Tavares and William Nylander. Simmonds started the season on the fourth line but has worked his way up, and has filled in amply with both Thornton and Robertson out.
“He brings a lot to our room and to a lot of other areas, but it’s opportunities for other people,” Keefe told reporters. “That process begins today.”
Until Thornton is ready to return, Jimmy Vesey could slide into that second line role after he’s had some success on the third line. The fourth line of Travis Boyd, Jason Spezza and Nic Petan has been sharp so they likely won’t shuffle that around. Keefe also commented on Monday he’d like to see more from Vesey, so perhaps there’s an entire reshuffle.
For Monday, the Leafs will go with a seven-defenseman solution and play with 11 forwards. Rasmus Sandin makes his season debut, but Keefe also said he wouldn’t see a ton of time on Monday in the second game of the series with the Canucks.
That’s a short-term solution anyways, and Simmonds will be out a lot longer than just Monday’s game. Thornton’s inevitable return will help, but until then, the Leafs have to ride out the storm.