TORONTO – The busiest people inside the Maple Leafs organization these days are the trainers.
With each passing day, it seems, another new body is walking into the dressing room looking for a stall with his freshly-minted nameplate above it.
T.J. Brennan filled that role Wednesday after Viktor Loov was surprisingly ruled out for a game against the New York Islanders. Loov, an emergency callup himself a day earlier, was on the ice for the morning skate before leaving abruptly.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Loov was feeling the affects of something that happened in practice on Tuesday.
“We thought it was nothing,” said Babcock. “Lots of guys get tweaks and that … (and we thought he had) taken care of it yesterday. And then when he got up today he couldn’t go.
“Brennan will play tonight.”
It marks the first time this season the high-scoring defenceman will suit up for the Leafs – making him the NHL-leading 40th different man to do so in 2015-16.
Injuries, trades and callups have made for a turbulent few months at Air Canada Centre.
Brennan has a cannon for a shot and is currently the third-leading scorer in the American Hockey League. He’s played 46 previous NHL games for Buffalo, Florida and Toronto, but has never had an extended look at this level.
With Matt Hunwick in need of sports hernia surgery and shutdown for the season, and Loov now out, Brennan could see a stretch of action with the Leafs. The timing is favourable given that he’s among several players in the organization due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“Well every day is an audition for all of us; let’s not kid ourselves,” said Babcock. “Now most of us, unless we’re really, really, really good at our job, we’re on a tryout every day. That’s the National Hockey League for probably 400 of the players – or 300 anyway.
“The rest? They’re lucky. They don’t have to think about hockey, they go home and do whatever they want, they come back, they’re that good.”
P.A. Parenteau is scheduled to return to the Leafs lineup on Wednesday after missing five games with neck spasms and, at age 32, he’ll be the oldest player dressed against the Islanders.
For some, it’s looking more like the team that is projected to start next season, but the coach isn’t willing to go quite that far.
“I have no idea how to tell you what the lineup’s going to look like,” said Babcock. “Because of the off-season, and because we expect changes and we have kids and free agency, I couldn’t tell you. Do I look at it? Yes. Do I have it laid out pretty clearly? Absolutely.
“But do I really know? No.”