Pontus Holmberg is on the way back up.
The Maple Leafs recalled the forward from the Toronto Marlies on Friday as winger Tyler Bertuzzi contends with a minor injury.
Holmberg, a sixth-round pick by the Leafs in 2018, was sharp when he got looks with the Leafs last season, recording 13 points (five goals and eight assists) in 37 games.
Coach Sheldon Keefe quickly came to appreciate Holmberg’s defensive smarts as well, noting early that Holmberg had a future with the team.
In two games with the Marlies this season, Holmberg has a goal and an assist.
“I’m happy for him that he is getting this opportunity,” Marlies coach John Gruden said after the team practised at the Ford Performance Centre on Friday. “He’s a 200-foot player, can play in all situations and you can rely on him.”
In a corresponding move, the Leafs loaned defenceman Simon Benoit to the Marlies.
The Leafs, who are scheduled to practise on Friday afternoon in Tampa, started a five-game trip with a 3-1 loss against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Only Mitch Marner, on a power play in the second period, was able to score on Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished with 29 saves.
Bertuzzi was a game-time decision versus the Panthers and played just under 14 minutes. Bertuzzi was moved off the top line with Auston Matthews and Marner when it became clear to Keefe that he was having issues.
“Bert is less than 100% right now,” Keefe said after the game. “It was very clear, the pace of the game, the physicality, the competitiveness of the game and the difficulty of the matchups, whoever was going to play with Auston and Mitch needed a lot, and I thought lightening Bert’s load would be beneficial to him.”
When Keefe was asked whether Bertuzzi might need a game or two off, he said that was possible.
“It’s something he is dealing with, we don’t consider it too severe at this point, but even on the bench, he was trying to stay loose and make sure he could get ready for his next shift,” Keefe said. “That wasn’t a good sign for me.”
The Leafs and Lightning meet on Saturday for the first time since Toronto eliminated Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Toronto has lost it past two games after winning its first two, while Tampa is 2-2-1 and coming off a home victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.