Leafs’ Andersen placed on IR, Sparks being evaluated for concussion

Maple Leafs goalie Garret Sparks has been forced through concussion protocol after taking this hard William Nylander shot to the helmet during practice.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have their goaltending depth tested even further.

The team announced Thursday that goaltender Frederik Andersen has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 23, while backup goalie Garret Sparks is being withheld from any competition while he is evaluated under the concussion protocol.

As a result, the team has recalled goaltenders Michael Hutchinson and Kasimir Kaskisuo from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on an emergency basis.

Andersen’s placement on injured reserve won’t come as a shock for Leafs fans as he hasn’t played since Dec. 22, remaining out while dealing with a groin injury. Andersen has been back on the ice recently, however. In 30 games this season, the 29-year-old has been stellar for Toronto, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average.

The bigger surprise for the club is the injury to back-up goalie Sparks. According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Sparks took a shot off the mask in practice Wednesday.

The 25-year-old, however, finished practice after being visibly shaken up. The team’s polarizing backup has posted a 6-2-1 record to go along with a .905 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average in 10 appearances for Toronto this season.

The Maple Leafs are likely to start newcomer and local GTA-native Michael Hutchinson when they take on the Minnesota Wild in their afternoon ‘Next Generation Game’ Thursday. The team acquired Hutchinson in exchange for a fifth-round pick from the Florida Panthers on Dec. 29. The 28-year-old struggled in four starts with the Panthers this season, posting a 1-2-1 record, an .839 save percentage, and a 4.17 goals-against average.

Kaskisuo, meanwhile, has no NHL experience under his belt, aside from recently backing up Sparks since Andersen’s injury. In 11 AHL games this season, the 25-year-old has struggled mightily, owning a .866 save percentage and 4.12 goals-against average for the Marlies.

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