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Andersen improving for Maple Leafs, won't play against Predators

Goalie recovering from groin injury; Hutchinson will make third straight start

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO - Frederik Andersen continues to participate in practice and work his way back from a groin injury but will not start when the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, SNO, FS-TN).

"It's getting close," the 29-year-old goalie said on Friday. "It's been a good progression over the last few days and obviously going through a full practice pretty much today, I'm feeling pretty good so definitely positive about it."

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock confirmed Michael Hutchinson will make his third-straight start in goal on Tuesday. After making 30 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Hutchinson earned his fourth career shutout, stopping all 28 shots Saturday in a 5-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

"We need to see how it responds today and I think we're all aware of what time of year it is right now and making sure we get this done the right way," Andersen said. "Just preparing for a long run for a long time in the spring."

Goalie Garret Sparks was diagnosed with a concussion Friday; the 25-year-old sustained the injury Wednesday during practice. He skated on his own prior to Sunday's practice.

Andersen said the injury to Sparks has not has not left him feeling more rushed to return to the lineup.

"You want to make sure you do the right rehab and do it the right way and eventually you have to be fine," Andersen said.

"If you push yourself too hard, you might make it worse later on. You have to be smart about it and can't let that stuff get in your emotions."

Andersen, who is 20-9-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout, said the groin injury was a slow, gradual buildup of wear and tear that did not improve leading up to the Christmas break.

"Something I played with through in December a little bit and had to try to manage," Andersen said. "The Christmas break, it didn't really respond the way we hoped, and we figured it was time to shut it down and make sure we didn't beat around the bush anymore."

He last played Dec. 22, making 25 saves in a 5-3 win against the New York Rangers. Andersen practiced on Dec. 27, but Babcock said he did not respond well during the morning skate the following day prior to a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. At that point, the Maple Leafs made the decision to rest Andersen.

Video: NYR@TOR: Andersen makes series of saves

Andersen backed up Sparks against the Blue Jackets in a 4-2 win and has not dressed in the two games since.

"It was going up and down but at the end, it wasn't the best," Andersen said. "Obviously you want to be closer to your full potential and feeling as close to 100 percent as possible to be playing on the top of your level like the first two months of the season for me personally."

Hutchinson was acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft on Dec. 29. 

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