TORONTO - The Maple Leafs could be without centre Mikhail Grabovski when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Grabovski was not at the team’s morning skate, instead electing to be with his girlfriend who was reportedly in labour giving birth to what would be the couple’s first child.
“He called (this morning), he was so excited you can imagine his English isn’t great but she’s having contractions so I think it’s safe to assume that she’s in labour giving birth,” coach Ron Wilson told reporters. “We haven’t heard back from him since. I wouldn’t expect him to be answering our texts if he’s in the delivery room.”
The Leafs (13-18-4) are hoping Grabovski will be back in the lineup for tonight’s crucial game against the Blue Jackets. The team can certainly use his 13 goals, second most on the squad, as it tries to make the most of a homestand that sees the Leafs play three of their next four games at the ACC.
After that the Leafs, who are currently 12 points out of a playoff spot in the East, head out on the road to play four straight games against Western Conference teams.
“I’m hoping he’ll (Grabovski) be able to play tonight. If not, we’ve got a contingency plan in place. We’ll call somebody up from the Marlies,” Wilson said.
That contingency plan could include Christian Hanson or Mike Zigomanis, who have both spent some time with the big club.
The Leafs may also be without defenceman/sometime forward Brett Lebda who left the skate early with what was described as a bit of a bug.
Though out to the best start in franchise history, the Blue Jackets (18-15-3) are 0-5-2 in their last seven road games, and the Leafs, who have never lost in regulation to Columbus, going 5-0-1-2, would certainly like to see that skid pushed to eight games.
The Blue Jackets have been outscored 29-11 during their losing streak on the road.
Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn on his brother Brayden’s record-tying four-goal night for Canada against Norway at the world junior hockey championship on Wednesday: “I’m just a proud big brother right now … You never go into a game expecting to score for goals. It would be nice to get one or two to help the team win.”