The team is electing to rest its No. 1 man for Sunday’s season finale against Columbus, but Babcock indicated that Andersen wasn’t experiencing any concussion symptoms the morning after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game in a collision with Penguins forward Tom Sestito.
When the playoffs get underway on Wednesday or Thursday – it’ll depend on whether they face Washington or Ottawa – the coach expects Andersen to be ready.
“Well, for sure,” said Babcock. “I expect him to be ready for practice tomorrow.”
It is the second game Andersen has missed in the last two weeks after being hit hard in the shoulder or head area. He was removed from a game in Buffalo on March 25 following a collision with William Carrier and couldn’t make the following start against Florida on March 28.
On Saturday, Sestito was cutting to the front of the goal early in the second period when he jumped and hit the Leafs goalie with his thigh.
Curtis McElhinney was brought in afterwards and helped the Leafs to a 5-3 victory over the Penguins that secured the team a playoff berth. The Leafs players returned to Air Canada Centre hours after the emotional win for meetings and to get refocused on the Columbus game.
“Some of the tension that we’ve had and some of the nerves we’ve had will be gone and we’ll get ready to play again,” said Babcock. “I think it’s good experience for our guys to go through it.”
“I think it’s a good thing we’re playing tonight,” added defenceman Morgan Rielly. “I mean you’ve got the feeling going, you know that you’re in, but we have an opportunity to keep the good feeling going, to keep the winning going.”
McElhinney, a 33-year-old career backup, will start Sunday against Columbus. It sets up as a big moment for him after spending the last four seasons with the Blue Jackets before getting placed on waivers and claimed by Toronto on Jan. 10.
There is plenty on the line with the outcome.
Toronto needs to earn at least a point to avoid facing the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals in Round 1 and get the Senators – although they were careful not to take anything for granted.
“You come here and you do good things and you see what happens,” said Babcock. “What I’ve learned over time – and I’ve been in the playoffs many, many times – you just be careful what you wish for. Be careful who you’re picking.”