Michael Hutchinson will make third straight start in goal for Maple Leafs

Michael Hutchinson will make third straight start in goal for Maple Leafs
Michael Hutchinson will start his third consecutive game Monday when the Maple Leafs host the Nashville Predators, coach Mike Babcock said.

“Hutch starts (Monday),” Babcock said at practice Sunday.

Hutchinson, fresh off a 5-0 shutout Saturday against Vancouver, gets the nod Monday as the Leafs continue to be cautious with Frederik Andersen.

The Leafs’ No. 1 goalie suffered a groin injury prior to Christmas but has taken part in two full practices with the team over the past three days. Andersen, who has played more minutes than any NHL goalie over the past two years, could return Thursday in New Jersey.

“(Monday) isn’t the plan yet,” Andersen said. “We have to make sure we do it (recovery) the right way.”

With Garret Sparks still in concussion protocol, it looks like the Leafs will call up Kasimir Kaskisuo to serve as the backup against Nashville.

Sparks was on the ice for practice Sunday, but he did not take part in any drills. It appears he has been cleared for sport-specific activities (skating). He will have to advance to no-contact and contact practice before he returns to game action.

“I definitely feel better than I did a few days ago,” said Sparks, adding that he was twice hit on the mask by shots during a practice last week. “When I got hit, it didn’t feel good ... I reacted the way I reacted. It was a split-second thing, and this is the first time I’m going through something like this.”

It is believed winger William Nylander took the shots that hit Sparks on the mask, thought the goaltender wouldn’t confirm that.

Sparks said the player “feels bad about it ... he’s a very important part of our team, and I give him the benefit of the doubt. I know he’d never in a million years try something like that. There’s no hard feelings.”

In the meantime, winger Zach Hyman took his first full practice in almost three weeks. He sprained his ankle last month against New Jersey, and was diagnosed with a three- to five-week layoff at the time of the injury.

Tuesday will mark three weeks since the injury.

Hyman is raring to play again, but it’s likely he will need another practice or two before returning to a line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
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