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Maple Leafs' Plan Mrazek's Return for Saturday Against Blackhawks

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek will likely make his return to the lineup on Saturday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

Petr Mrazek will likely return to the lineup on Saturday when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Chicago Blackhawks. That is if he gets through the morning skate unscathed.

"The plan would be to activate him and play tomorrow but he has to get to that point," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.

The Leafs are understandably cautious with their goaltender. Mrazek has been limited to just 100 minutes of action over two games with his new club.

Mrazek left his first start of the season with a groin injury after the second period of the Leafs' 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 14. He returned to the lineup on Oct. 30 and allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 5-4 win against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Czech goaltender later admitted that the injury flared up during the game against the Red Wings. A week after the contest, the team announced that Mrazek would miss a minimum of four weeks.

The Maple Leafs signed Mrazek to a three-year, $11.4 million contract this past summer. Expected to support incumbent starter Jack Campbell, Mrazek returns to a different situation where Campbell has played in 22 of the team's 28 games. 

Campbell was named the NHL's second star of the month for November. In that month he posted a 9-2-0 record with three shutouts, a 1.27 goals-against average and .959 save percentage.

Although Michael Hutchinson filled in for Mrazek during his first injury stint, rookie Joseph Woll has provided support in his second go-around.

Last weekend, Mrazek took part in a one-game conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. He allowed four goals on 26 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Laval Rocket.

Another reason for the Leafs to be cautious is Mrazek is currently on long-term injured reserve. He will not come off that list until the latest moment possible, as the team will have to make roster adjustments to fit him back on the active roster. 

According to PuckPedia, the Leafs currently have $430,833 in cap space. Once Mrazek's $3.8 million cap hit is applied, an adjustment(s) is needed to be cap compliant. The simplest change would be to place Mitch Marner and his $10.903 million cap hit on LTIR.

Keefe said earlier in the week that Marner's estimated recovery from a shoulder injury is three to four weeks. That timeline puts Marner at around the timeline of 10 games and 24 days, the minimum time required to sit out if placed on LTIR.

Should Marner go on LTIR, he'd be unavailable to return to the lineup until Dec. 27 against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the earliest.

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