MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: Martin Jones plays his way into San Jose return

Get the latest from Lance Hornby straight to your inbox

Article content

Martin Jones knows the way to San Jose, probably better than Dionne Warwick when she celebrated Tealtown in song.

Advertisement 2

Article content

It was Jones’ third and most successful West Coast stop in an 11-year NHL goaltending career, where he ranked second in Sharks career victories with 170 to Evgeni Nabokov’s 293.

Article content

Coach Sheldon Keefe had that and the 33-year-old’s recent strong outings in mind in starting him for a fourth straight game Saturday at the SAP Center for the Maple Leafs.

“Jones is in a good place right now,” Keefe told reporters in Irvine, Cal., where the club practiced Friday after Jones won the first two on the West Coast trip. “And the schedule is in our favour as it relates to keeping him going.”

Having made it through the Los Angeles-Anaheim back-to-back with Jones stopping 58 of 59 shots, followed by a team day off Thursday, Keefe can play him Saturday and if all goes well, again versus the Sharks at home on Tuesday, the eve of the latter’s 34th birthday.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

By then, either Dennis Hildeby will be fully immersed for his first NHL start or Ilya Samsonov, with time off to get himself together back in Toronto, will attempt a return.

A native of North Vancouver, B.C., who has a current .930 save percentage, perhaps Jones was born to shine on the coast.

Drafted by L.A., he was on the roster but didn’t play in its first Cup in 2012, though did have a role two years later as Jonathan Quick’s backup. His rights were traded to Boston for a few days in June of ’15, before being swapped to the Sharks with whom he helped get to their first championship final, losing to Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia and the expansion Seattle Kraken were his next destinations, before signing with Toronto as insurance.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Unlike a couple of depth goalies the Leafs lost on waivers, Jones was due a $100,000 US bonus in his minimum-wage Leafs deal, which Toronto management calculated would be just enough to scare off most cash-strapped teams.


Saturday will also be a homecoming for fourth-line winger Noah Gregor.

Not tendered a contract by the Sharks last summer, he was on a PTO at Leafs camp and turned that into a one-year deal. His speed and penalty killing have enhanced his value.

“They treated me really well and I made a lot of great friends there,” Gregor said of his two full years and two half seasons in San Jose. “The hockey was what it was (no playoffs as the club eventually embraced a rebuild). We weren’t the best team, but we always worked hard.’’

Advertisement 5

Article content


With no even-strength goals against in the past three games (Carolina beat them with two on the power play and an empty netter a week ago), Keefe indicated no lineup changes at all for Saturday, meaning Nick Robertson sits a second game in favour of Pontus Holmberg.

Having benched or demoted Holmberg a few times since last year to accommodate other experiments, Keefe said he felt he owed the Swede another game and likes him on left wing with Max Domi and Calle Jarnkrok.

Robertson insisted Friday he’ll keep working on his defensive acumen to round out his scoring potential.

Recommended from Editorial

Advertisement 6

Article content


Before the trip, Ryan Reaves declared himself nearly ready to return. That painful-looking leg injury he suffered Dec. 14 against Columbus turned out to be a dislocated kneecap that has bothered him in the past and “pops in and out,” to use his description, though rarely sidelining him this long.

Reaves said the time off has been good for self-assessment as the 36-year-old’s impact on his new team has been less than anticipated.

“A lot of things happen when you watch. You see what the team is going through and where I’m supposed to be adding that I probably haven’t been the last little while — a little more physical, a little more getting in guys’ face, a little louder, that I’ve struggled with as my game’s been struggling.

Advertisement 7

Article content

“Those are things I see on TV and whenever I get the chance to bring that back in the lineup like I was supposed to. I have to get back to my game and not worry about the past. I’d been working on getting I back and then the injury happened.”

Leafs such as Simon Benoit, William Lagesson and rookie Matthew Knies have been involved in scraps with Reaves out.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to build here, team toughness,” Reaves said. “Everyone who has dropped the gloves has done extremely well.


We apologize, but this video has failed to load.


With reports of an eight-year deal for William Nylander around the $11-million US level getting closer, expect the Leafs to want to complete it before or after the NHL all-star game. Presumably, they don’t want to take away attention from what will already be a Toronto-centric event … Upon being presented with the team’s wrestling belt as game MVP on Wednesday, the scoreless, stay-at-home defender Benoit told mates “I can’t score a friggin’ goal, but I’m glad to hit the bodies for you guys” … Auston Mattthews, named to his seventh all-star game lineup on Thursday, is one behind Mats Sundin’s record for nominations, though both have had to skip the event at times due to injury. Matthews said Friday he’s unsure what skills contest events he’s to be entered in … The Marlies, trying to bust a five-game losing streak, four of those setbacks by a goal, play Syracuse at home Saturday and Sunday, both 4 p.m. starts.

Article content