We’ve come to learn a couple of things about Calle Jarnkrok.
In his first season with the Maple Leafs after signing a four-year, $8.4-million US contact in free agency last July, the 31-year-old has established himself as one of the club’s more industrious forwards in all areas.
And in his dealings with media, Jarnkrok doesn’t waste words.
Jarnkrok has scored a career-high 17 goals and has tied his career high with 35 points, yet those accomplishments won’t give more than a passing thought.
“I don’t think about that,” Jarnkrok said in Ottawa late on Saturday night after scoring two goals in the Leafs’ 5-4 win in a shootout against the Senators. “I’m here to win hockey games, try to focus on that, not on (individual statistics).”
What Jarnkrok has been doing, and it’s ramping up as the season winds down, is giving coach Sheldon Keefe more consideration to use him in the top six once the playoffs start.
Jarnkrok is getting on well with the club’s No. 1 centre, Auston Matthews, and there’s no reason to take Jarnkrok off Matthews line for the time being. Not when the chemistry is obvious, as seen in the two Matthews passes that Jarnkrok buried on Saturday.
“To me, he has been great all season, but it seems like it has gone to another level,” Keefe said of Jarnkrok. “Jarny hasn’t spent a lot of time with Auston, and that is something we wanted to get a look at. He has been terrific, both in his own play and what he is generating for his linemates, Auston in particular.
“Auston felt strongly about continuing with it as well. Both those guys got rewarded for it (against the Sens).”
Whether he has had Mitch Marner or William Nylander on his line, Matthews knows all about looking over and seeing a wealth of talent. We’re not putting Jarnkrok in that category, but Matthews sounds like he would be happy to see the union get a longer chance to thrive.
“He’s so sneaky good at so many things,” Matthews said. “So smart, gets into great spots all over the ice, not just in the offensive zone.
“A really easy guy to play with. His release is one of the prettiest releases I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a lot of fun watching him get the puck off.”
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Any NHL player will tell you he wants to be on the ice in every game with his teammates, so there’s bound to be some disappointment for some Leafs defencemen in the club’s remaining 13 games.
Provided there are no injuries to a defence corps that is brimming with bodies.
After sitting veteran Mark Giordano and Erik Gustafsson on Saturday, Keefe indicated more of the same is coming for various members of the group.
That will come into focus more when Keefe uses the common alignment of 12 forwards and six defencemen, as he did in Ottawa, rather than 11 and seven.
“We’ve had a discussion with all of our defence, leading into this weekend and going down the stretch, just to let them know there are going to be times where guys are going to get time off, whether it’s bumps and bruises or rest and workload,” Keefe said. “While we’re healthy, we want to keep everybody involved.”
The game marked the first one that the 39-year-old Giordano missed this season. Gustafsson sat out after what Keefe called the newcomer’s “best game” in the Leafs’ victory a night earlier versus Carolina.
Five Leafs who have played in every game and all are forwards — Marner, Nylander, Michael Bunting, David Kampf and Alex Kerfoot.
After taking a day off on Sunday, the Leafs will provide an update on forward Noel Acciari at practice on Monday. Keefe said Acciari, who departed the win against the Hurricanes after a collision with Jesse Puljujarvi, was not diagnosed with a concussion and had a “good day” on Saturday … In New York on Tuesday when they start a four-game trip, the Leafs will get their first look at forward Pierre Engvall in an Islanders uniform following the trade that sent him to Long Island on Feb. 28. Engvall appears to have made a good adjustment to his new team, and will take a four-game point streak into the match. Through seven games with the Isles, Engvall has five points (three goals and two assists) and is averaging 14 minutes eight seconds of ice time a game. That’s exactly one minute more than he averaged in 58 games with the Leafs … When the Sens’ Tim Stutzle scored during a Leafs power play in the second period, it was the eighth shorthanded goal allowed by Toronto. Only six teams had allowed more through games on Saturday. Curiously, one of them is Tampa Bay, the Leafs’ impending first-round opponent. Tampa had given up 11 shorthanded goals.
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