Murray suddenly questionable for Maple Leafs, Samsonov could start against Senators
Part of the risk for the Maple Leafs in trading Matt Murray during the offseason was the goalie’s injury history.
The Leafs took their chances, hoping that not only would Murray stay healthy, but that he would turn his career around in the National Hockey League.
We won’t know about the latter for a while. The ex? Well, the Leafs are now aware of the fine line Murray walks in trying to stay physically healthy.
In line to start against his former team, the Ottawa Senators, on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena, Murray left the morning skate just minutes after it began, chatting with bench staff before leaving the ice.
“Murray had some discomfort in his groin,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We decided it made sense to take him off the skate, evaluate him, and that process is still ongoing.” We’ll make some decisions about his status tonight based on (the evaluation).
“It’s still too early at this stage to really give you much in terms of what-if scenarios.” We’re just going to focus on Matt’s grade and take it from there.”
Keefe said if Murray is released, he will start in the final fight for Ontario. If not, Iliya Samsonov will get the nod after picking up a win in his Leafs debut against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
And then who would back up? With Eric Kahlgren injured last night in the Toronto Marlies game in Rochester and Joseph Wall recovering from shoulder surgery, the Leafs may need to use an emergency backup goaltender.
It remains to be seen if the Leafs will feel comfortable putting Murray on the bench on Saturday night.
There had to be a move to get another goaltender before the Leafs next game, Monday at home against the Arizona Coyotes.
Last October, the Leafs had to sign University of Toronto goaltender Alex Bishop to a one-day amateur tryout contract to back up Jack Campbell for a game against the Senators. And no one forgets David Ayres’ try for Carolina against the Leafs in a February 2020 game.
Keefe said Murray’s groin problem happened during the skate, adding that the goaltender was “100 percent fine” going into it. Murray was looking to make his second start with the Leafs after losing the season opener in Montreal against the Canadiens on Wednesday.
“We’ve got Elijah getting ready to start at this point,” Keefe said. “The plan was for Matt to start and if he’s able to do it and has the clearance to do it, he’ll do it, but we’ll go through that process.”
“Every time you talk to a goalkeeper, even if he’s not a starter, the real pros go through (the day) like they are, because you never know. You have to stay ready.”
With Ottawa last season, Murray had a few injuries and never really got going. Instead of signing Jack Campbell to a long-term contract, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas acquired Murray from the Sens and signed Samsonov in free agency in a last-ditch effort to get him right in the door.
After the Sens practiced in Toronto on Friday, coach DJ Smith discussed Murray’s stay in Ottawa.
“Matt, unfortunately in his time here, he was injured all the time,” Smith said.
“Don’t take anything away from him. He was just hurt all the time.
Otherwise, the cash-strapped Leafs will use the same lineup that was used in the first two games of the season.
Defenseman Timothy Lillegren, who is recovering from hernia surgery, skated with the team Saturday morning but is not close to returning, Keefe said.
Expected Leafs lineup:
Michael Bunting-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner
William Nylander-John Tavares-Dennis Malgin
Pierre Engvall-Alex Kerfoot-Kale Jarnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese-David Kampf-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Morgan Riley-TJ Brody
Jake Muzzin-Justin Hall
Mark Giordano-Rasmus Sandin
To be determined