BOSTON - Jesse Blacker’s debut in the National Hockey League won’t come yet.
The Maple Leafs called Blacker up from the Toronto Marlies as John-Michael Liles nurses a sprained ankle, but count on Mike Kostka getting back into the lineup on Monday night at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle indicated after the morning skate that Kostka will return after he was a healthy scratch for the past five games.
The Leafs will try to complete a rare home-and-home sweep of the Bruins after winning 3-2 on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
“Probably not,” Carlyle said when asked if Blacker would play.
“We think Kostka has earned the opportunity to go back in. We just felt in the last time around with Kostka it was a numbers game and things weren’t going quite the way we had liked them to. With the injury to Liles, Kostka is a natural fit. Blacker has been a soldier for our American Hockey League team, and we felt we did not want to come into Boston and not have a situation where we could not put in another defenceman if somebody was to get hurt in the morning skate or get the flu or sick.”
A revelation out of training camp, Kostka started well but faded before he was scratched for the first time on March 14 against Pittsburgh. He didn’t like sitting, but was not about to complain about it.
“It is a good learning experience,” Kostka said. “When you watch from up top you get a different perspective on things. The game seems a lot easier from up there. It is good sometimes to be able to see that you have a little more time in some situations, you can analyze the game a little differently from that bird’s eye view.”
Blacker has three goals and seven assists in 53 games with the Marlies. The 21-year-old Toronto native was selected 58th overall by the Leafs in 2009.
Marlies coach Dallas Eakins told him after the Marlies game in Peoria, Ill., on Sunday night that he was being summoned by the Leafs.
Blacker caught a 6:30 a.m. flight out of Chicago and got to Boston at 9:30 on about 3 1/2 hours’ sleep.
“Awesome,” Blacker said of getting called up. “It’s a step in the right direction for me and it’s something I have been hoping/waiting for. Definitely an exciting moment. Hopefully I get a game in, but if not I take the experience and run with it.”
The Leafs, who will have James Reimer in goal, will try to win for just the third time in 11 visits to Boston.
Having Joffrey Lupul back after he served a two-game suspension should help. Lupul skated with Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin, so figure on Ryan Hamilton being a healthy scratch.
“(The Bruins) are a pesky bunch,” said Kadri, who was named NHL third star of the week after he recorded three goals and four assists in three games.
“They are never going to roll over and die. The Bruins have a lot of attributes, a lot of great players who can definitely hurt you one-on-one, so we have to make sure we can contain everybody and keep them to the outside. We know they are going to get some scoring chances. They are a good hockey team and we have to minimize them.”
The Bruins are back at home after losing three times on a four-game trip.
“We need to be angry at ourselves, not the Leafs,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “(The Leafs) are a team that has improved a lot. Randy has done a great job with them. They’ve added some toughness, they’ve added some size, they’ve got a certain structure that allows them to play well. There’s a lot of good things going on with that team.
“We’ve got to be mad at ourselves for not playing our game.”