The Toronto Marlies came home from their six-game road trip with two wins and four losses, dropping them to third place in the AHL’s Western Conference. The very slight slide hasn’t affected the Marlies too much in the standings as they have played the least amount of games (39) of the top five teams in the West.
Toronto will face the Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton Penguins tomorrow night at Ricoh and their lineup will be getting a bit of a boost, though likely a short-lived one. Defenseman Jake Gardiner has been assigned to the AHL after just two games with the Maple Leafs. Gardiner is coming off a concussion, and the Leafs want to give him a few games in the minors to get back in game shape.
Gardiner is considered one of Toronto’s top defensive prospects. He scored seven goals last season with the Maple Leafs and was expected to be a main-stay on their blue line. But after sustaining a concussion with the Marlies, his progress has been slowed. Gardiner had nine goals and 17 points in 22 games played for the Marlies this season, and his presence will be welcomed for a team that’s struggled after losing several key players to the NHL.
The trend of players getting called up continued as an injury to Leafs forward Joffery Lupul opened the door for Matt Frattin to get a chance. He played with the Leafs last season but didn’t make the team out of camp this time around. He has nine goals in 21 games for the Marlies this season. His NHL season debut Thursday night against the Islanders was a successful one. He notched a goal and two assists in a losing cause and looked good playing with Nazem Kadri.
Frattin was selected to play in the AHL all-star game but with Lupul expected out for more than a month, he may not get the chance to participate. The Leafs were expecting big things from Frattin and this might be his opportunity to prove he belongs. The Marlies did gain another player recently as Tim Connolly was placed on waivers by the Leafs and wasn’t claimed. He has two goals in just two games played.
The carousel of players moving up and down is nothing new for an AHL club and the Marlies are still very much a contender. They are solidly in a playoff spot but hope that their disappointing road trip isn’t a sign of things to come. The shaky play of the Maple Leafs goaltending certainly leaves the door open for a trade and perhaps the return of Ben Scrivens.
But nothing is guaranteed in the AHL and the Marlies have to step up and move forward. They’ve certainly showed that they’re more than capable of that.