When Wayne Simmonds injured his wrist against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 6, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe lost what he felt was his group of second-line forwards.
"I think that line was just starting to get going," Keefe said. "I thought it's the best trio we've had there."
Upon learning Simmonds would be out for the next game, Keefe, unsure how to replace the forward, left the second-line spot vacant and dressed seven defensemen in a 3-1 win against the Canucks.
John Tavares and William Nylander have had stretches where they haven't produced offensively. The issue stands out more with Tavares, who has just four goals and 14 assists at even strength in 33 games this season.
In the two games against the Canucks where Simmonds played on the second line, Tavares had a goal and assists at 5-on-5. Nylander also had a pair of assists at even strength.
The Leafs are coming off a 3-2 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. They had several opportunities early in the game to separate themselves against the North Division's basement dwellers, but could not take advantage of three power-play chances in the opening frame.
Joe Thornton will return to the team's top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
"He's played really good hockey against the Edmonton Oilers this season," Keefe said of Thornton.
Thornton has two assists in four games against the Oilers this year.
Alex Galchenyuk will move down to play with Alex Kerfoot and Jason Spezza. Keefe said he likes what he saw from Galchenyuk since his debut with the Leafs, but the change was more about getting Simmonds back with Nylander and Tavares.
Andersen's return not imminent
Frederik Andersen remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury but Keefe revealed that the team's starting goaltender has not been skating on his own since coming out of the lineup.
"He's had some different examinations and some things looked at," Keefe said. "I expect we'll have an update here in the coming days."
Andersen had struggled since his return from a lower-body injury on Mar. 3. He later revealed that he was not playing at 100 percent.
Andersen has an .876 save percentage in March.
Robertson and Liljegren to taxi squad
The Maple Leafs assigned forward Nick Robertson and defenseman Timothy Liljegren to the team's taxi squad on Saturday.
Keefe stressed that there was nothing to read into Robertson's assignment. The forward is mainly up to work with the medical staff for his recovery from an oblique injury.
Liljegren replaced Kristian Rubins on the taxi squad. At times, the Liljegren has moved to the team's active roster for salary cap/NHL-level payday purposes.