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Atlantic Division Weekly: Maple Leafs without Marner, Spezza

Plus, Tuukka Rask is back practicing with the Bruins.

Dec 1, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (16) caries the puck against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period at Scotiabank Arena. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of big names land on the injured reserve list, while other big names could soon find their way back into the line-up.

Here’s what happened in the Atlantic Division this past week.

Boston Bruins (13-8-2)

The Bruins could be getting back on track. The COVID outbreak has cooled down in the AHL and the Bruins can now call up players from Providence to help the team deal with injury issues.

That didn’t help earlier in the week when Boston lost 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime on Saturday and 2-1 in a shootout with the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.

The B’s beat Edmonton 3-2 on Thursday, showing possible signs of a turnaround. Boston is currently fifth in the Atlantic Division, so points are starting to matter.

Brandon Carlo is day-to-day; Tomas Nosek and Jakub Zboril are on injured reserve.

So far, the goaltending tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark have held down the fort for the Bruins in net, but it sounds like Tuukka Rask may be poised for a return. Rask is currently unsigned and had hip surgery in the off-season. He was at a Bruins practice earlier this week, working out with the team. The appearance of Rask could mean the 34-year-old netminder signs with the Bruins soon.

Buffalo Sabres (8-15-3)

Buffalo’s chances at the playoffs continue to dwindle. The Sabres have lost six games in a row and are just 1-8-1 in the last 10 games. The team lost 6-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday; were shutout 2-0 by the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday and then lost 2-1 to the New York Rangers on Friday.

The highlight of the week didn’t even come from a member of the Sabres. Instead, it came from the Ducks, as Trevor Zegras picked up the puck and alley-ooped it over the net to Sonny Milano, who then bunted it past Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

The team will lean on Luukkonen as the goaltender injuries pile up. Newcomer Malcolm Subban joined Craig Anderson on the injured list this week. On the forward side of things, Casey Mittelstadt underwent surgery on an “undisclosed” injury and will be out for an unspecified number of games.

The good news for the Sabres is that Shane Wright is out there waiting for them. The bad news, the team doesn’t suck enough. It’s currently sixth in the Atlantic Division despite having just 19 points. Trailing behind Buffalo are the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators.

But heck, you can still get a Rick jersey!

Detroit Red Wings (13-12-3)

It is looking less and less likely that the Red Wings will make the playoffs, but at least the team is fun to watch. On Saturday, Detroit beat the New York Islanders 4-3 in overtime but couldn’t claim another point this week.

The Red Wings lost to the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Tuesday, fell 6-2 to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, and were trounced by the Colorado Avalanche 7-3 on Friday. While the Wings only scored three goals against the Avs, there were some pretty ones.

Lucas Raymond still leads the team with 24 points, but the rookie is starting to cool down. He has just 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in his last five games. His teammate and competition in the Calder Trophy race continues to shine, too; Moritz Seider has 5 points in his last five games.

Both Marc Staal and Tyler Bertuzzi are in COVID-19 Protocol. Gustav Lindstrom is on IR, joining Mitchell Stephens, Troy Stecher and Jakub Vrana.

Florida Panthers (18-4-4)

The Panthers are back atop the Atlantic Division. This week, Florida claimed five of a possible six points, beating the Blues 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday. On Tuesday, the Panthers lost to the Blues 4-3 in overtime, but then bounced back with a 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

Captain Aleksander Barkov is back in the line-up after missing three weeks due to a knee-on-knee collision, at least sort of. Barkov scored a goal in his return against the Blues on Tuesday but missed Friday’s game against the Coyotes due to a lower-body injury. Anthony Duclair also missed the game due to injury.

The Panthers placed defenseman Kevin Connauton on waivers earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Sam Reinhart is starting to produce. He has tallied 8 points in his last five games, including a goal and an assist against the Coyotes.

Montreal Canadiens (6-19-3)

The Canadiens nabbed one of a possible six points this week. On Saturday, the team lost to the Predators 4-3 in overtime. Montreal kept it close against Tampa Bay, losing by a tight 3-2 on Tuesday, but then threw up a big goose egg in a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

Habs fans will take solace in the fact that Carey Price could be back soon. The goaltender worked out in full gear before the team’s optional practice earlier this week. There’s no definitive timeline for when he might rejoin the team.

In other news, the Canadiens and prospect Arsen Khisamutdinov mutually agreed to terminate his contract on Thursday. According to Eyes on the Prize, the 23-yer-old forward was a sixth round pick in 2019 that never really found his way with the organization.

Montreal is also dealing with a boatload of injuries. Christian Dvorak, Tyler Toffoli and Joel Armia are just the latest names added to an already lengthy injured reserve.

Ottawa Senators (7-16-1)

As weeks go, this wasn’t a bad one for the Senators, who beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-5 in overtime on Saturday and followed that up with a 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils the next night. An unfortunate 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Thursday spoiled an otherwise perfect week for the Sens.

The team is looking for answers and it appears defender Michael Del Zotto is not it. He was placed on waivers on Friday, just a few months into his two-year, $4 million deal with the team. Del Zotto has scored 2 goals and 6 points in 10 games this season.

You know who is good, though? Josh Norris, the kid the San Jose Sharks gave up in the trade for Erik Karlsson. He scored his 11th goal of the year against the Islanders.

Tampa Bay Lightning (17-5-4)

The Lightning has won five in a row and four of those wins have come this week. On Saturday, Tampa Bay beat the Bruins 3-2 in overtime and followed it with a 7-1 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers. On Tuesday, it was a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning rounded out the week with a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Steven Stamkos netted a goal and three assists in the win.

Center Anthony Cirelli is injured and so is defender Erik Cernak. The team is still without forwards Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov could be back soon — earlier this week, he skated with the team for the first time since having surgery in late October.

On the business side of things, team owner Jeff Vinik sold a minority share of the franchise. The Lightning has also signed defenseman Roman Schmidt to a three-year entry-level contract. Schmidt was drafted in the third round of the 2021 Entry Draft.

Toronto Maple Leafs (18-8-2)

It was not a good week for the Maple Leafs. Toronto lost to the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday and then fell 6-3 to the Winnipeg Jets in a brutal battle. On Tuesday, the team claimed its lone win of the week, a 5-4 triumph over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But a visit from the Lightning made things worse. Toronto fell 5-3 to Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Goaltender Petr Mrazek is expected to return to the line-up later this week. That’s good news, because the team is missing some key players. Mitch Marner is out three to four weeks with a shoulder injury after colliding with teammate Jake Muzzin during practice. Travis Dermott is also injured.

Rasmus Sandin will miss two to three weeks after a knee-on-knee collision with Neal Pionk during Sunday’s game against Winnipeg. Pionk received a two-game suspension for the hit.

The Maple Leafs will also have to play without Jason Spezza, who was dealt a six-game suspension for hitting Pionk later in the game.