MARLIES NOTES: Dennis Hildeby's healthy scratch not linked to Maple Leafs

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The Toronto Marlies put a goaltender into a showcase matinee at Scotiabank Arena on Boxing Day, but it wasn’t the ‘Hildebeast,’ who is getting so much attention these days in Leafs Nation.

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While the decision not to dress Dennis Hildeby at all against the Belleville Senators raised many an antennae that the parent team might have something in store for the AHL rookie star as Ilya Samsonov struggles with the Leafs, coach John Gruden said the Swede was being driven to Cleveland to rest for a measuring stick game Wednesday against the division-leading Monsters.

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Luke Cavallin, who did well at Leafs training camp, was summoned from the Newfoundland Growlers for his first AHL start, a 4-2 empty-net goal loss to Belleville.

“We’d been having success with (Hildeby) and wanted to play him, but weren’t planning on using him the game before Christmas,” Gruden said of Friday’s 4-3 loss in Bellville. “We thought it best suited if we did it this way. We want to do what’s best for everybody and give us the best chance moving forward.”

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The 6-foot-6 Hildeby, hoping to come up the same home-grown draft path as the currently injured Joseph Woll, sports a record of 7-4-2 with the second-best save percentage of any AHL rookie stopper.

The change to a big-league venue appeared to be an ideal chance for him with SBA’s lower bowl packed with fans, but big picture, the game against Columbus’s farm team on Wednesday is more important in the standings.

Ottawa visits the Leafs on Wednesday, with Martin Jones expected to start in net, but the National Hockey League holiday roster freeze is still in effect until midnight.

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LUKE LOOKING GOOD

Cavallin made 19 saves, the victim of bad bounces, more than bad positioning, while the explosive Marlies should have generated more goals out of 31 shots against Kevin Mandolese. With Cavallin pulled in the last minute, Mandolese got a pad on an open Max Ellis chance that would’ve tied it.

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“I wanted a win, but it was a lot of fun playing in that one,” said Cavallin, an Ottawa-area native who got some action during September’s Traverse City prospects tournament. “You had experiences from being here before and then get comfortable. Everything you get, especially this game, will help. I’ve been in Newfoundland a year and a half, it’s a great place to play, the fans are awesome, you get to work on your game a lot.”

With a record of 9-3-2 and a .918 save percentage for the ECHL club, he earned a prime-time opportunity and looked cool handling the puck. He ignored two onrushing Sens to send Toronto captain Logan Shaw away on an odd-man rush and draw a penalty.

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KEEP ON KIEFFER

The Kieffer Bellows experiment with the Marlies might one day pay off for the Leafs.

Joining the farm team on a PTO, after his first-round pick potential was not realized with the Islanders and didn’t stick with the Flyers or at this year’s Hurricanes’ camp, the winger now has 11 goals in 19 games after opening the scoring on Tuesday.

He’s rebuilding his 200-foot game with the help of Gruden, who was an assistant with the Islanders when the son of Brian Bellows went there as the 19th overall selection in 2016.

“John knows me and understands me,” Bellows said. “I love playing here in Toronto in this environment. The process is important to me to help get back in the NHL.”

Gruden said of Bellows: “He’s a talented player and it helps me to know where he can improve and get better. Good for him to be working on those things.”

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Bellows is now halfway to his career goal high of 22 with the Bridgeport Islanders in 2019-20.

ICE CHIPS

Bellows, Shaw and 2020 late-round pick Ryan Tverberg are forming one the Marlies’ best lines the past few games. Tverberg has nine points in 11 contests. “It’s good to learn from those two (veterans),” Richmond Hill native Tverberg said. “Bellows shows me the level I should be at and he brings it every night” … Shaw collected his 250th AHL point Tuesday … Alex Steeves, after a Marlies record 16-game points streak, the AHL’s longest at the time, was broken in the last game against Belleville, assisted on Joseph Blandisi’s third-period goal … Cameron Gaunce, a 33-year-old defenceman who is also on a PTO with the Marlies, didn’t dress Tuesday as he eyes a game back in Cleveland where he put in some minor-league time.

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