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Komarov back tonight against the Panthers?

Will the veteran make his return this evening, and what does it mean for rookie Johnsson?

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According to The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel, injured Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov will not make his return to the team’s lineup tonight as they take on the surging Florida Panthers.

Komarov has been out of the Leafs’ lineup since suffering a lower body injury in a game against the Buffalo Sabres earlier this month. He has missed the Leafs’ lineup for the past five games, while the team has gone 3-2 in his absence. Once he’s deemed healthy, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear that he’ll be back in the lineup, no question about it. “I can tell you Leo is going in for sure, we need a heavy body and a penalty killer,” said the Leafs’ bench boss before adding, “he’s a man”.

So, with Komarov coming back, the Leafs starting lineup becomes a numbers game once again and it looks like rookie Andreas Johnsson will pay the price with his roster spot. When asked how he’ll find minutes for Johnsson once Komarov returns, Babcock was blunt with his answer saying, “Maybe I don’t… that’s just the way it is, but I think Johnny has been real good.”

Despite seemingly having no room for Johnsson, Babcock has been quick to praise the Swedish youngster, who has one goal in six games since being called up on March 13th. What impresses Babcock the most is Johnsson’s straight ahead speed. “I always knew he was quick when I watched him with the Marlies,” said Babcock. “I didn’t know if he had speed. He does.”

Babcock also seems to like his line fourth line and is reluctant to pull them apart, despite having Komarov as an option, “I thought they were really good,” said Babcock about the Johnsson, Tomas Plekanec and Kasperi Kapanen trio following the team’s 3-2 loss to the Sabres. “I thought two games in a row they dominated and played well, played hard and were effective. That’s a good sign for us moving ahead.”

But, again it’s a numbers game. When Komarov finally gets medical clearance expect Johnsson to watch from the press box. For how long though, remains to be seen. As the team’s 13th forward, all you can do is watch, learn and wait for your opportunity. In Johnsson’s case, the kid is taking advantage of any chance that comes his way.