With 17 games to go and the prospect of playoff hockey all but gone, the Maple Leafs find themselves in a position to embrace the spoiler role.
The players returned home from their four-game road trip early Friday morning. For some players, finding motivation will be easier than others.
During the Monday’s trade deadline, the Leafs acquired forward Joakim Lindstrom in exchange for veteran forward Olli Jokinen and conditional sixth round draft choice.
Going from a Stanley Cup contender to a team that is struggling is probably not the most joyous thing to learn
“It was a little bit of a surprise for sure at first,” said Lindstrom. “Once that sinks in a little bit, I realized it was a good opportunity for me to come to a pretty good team here as well and compete in these last 17 games that is left.”
Lindstrom has only played 34 games this season with the Blues. His ice-time was limited, registering three goals and three assists.
But in Toronto, with the playoffs out of sight, the Leafs could look to experiment over the coming games left to play. And Lindstrom will get to showcase what he can do — if given the opportunity.
“I’m highly motivated for a lot of reasons. From a personal standpoint, for a contract and showcase that I belong here.”
On Saturday, the Maple Leafs host the St. Louis Blues. That means extra motivation for Lindstrom, who doesn’t have to wait very long to show what his former team is missing.
“I think I can look myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could in St. Louis,” said Lindstrom. “Unfortunately I didn’t get as much ice time as I would have liked. But that’s the way it is and I just have to move forward and compete as hard as I can.”
Lindstrom had spent the previous three seasons in the Swedish Hockey League before signing a one-year deal with the Blues.
Meanwhile, veteran defenceman Eric Brewer made his Leafs debut on Thursday. It was his 992nd game and barring anything unforeseen, he’s expected to play in his 1000th NHL game with Toronto before the season comes to a close.
“He’s a guy who works extremely hard during practice, he’s a professional that’s been around a long time,” said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. “I’ve had a chance to catch up with him over the last couple of days and it’s been great to have him.”
Phaneuf and Brewer were teammates together in 2007 when they won gold at the World Hockey Championships.
Everything was normal at Friday’s practice. No changes to the lines and everyone appears to be healthy.