A massive opportunity awaits Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren in New York tonight

Mike Armenti
January 19, 2022  (12:34)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in New York City on Wednesday in anticipation of a meeting with the legendary Rangers at Madison Square Garden tonight, but if they hope to steal one from the Rangers on the road, two of their young guns will have to step up in a big way.

Last week, the Leafs had placed Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase and Justin Holl in COVID-19 protocol. This week, they announced that Jake Muzzin will be sidelined with a concussion for at least the next week. That leaves two gaping holes in the Leafs' top four. Enter Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
Both Sandin and Liljegren have shown glimmers of brilliance this season, albeit in different ways. Sandin with his poise and physical play and Liljegren with his sound defensive play and his ability to clear the puck out of the defensive zone very efficiently to get the offense started back the other way. While neither have spent any real time as consistent top-four defenders, they'll get their chance to prove themselves tonight.
Sandin and Liljegren are very familiar with one another, as they spent significant time together with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, prior to making their respective NHL jumps. We know there's chemistry there. So does their head coach, Sheldon Keefe.
Keefe had a chance to address the media on Wednesday, identifying the opportunity as a "terrific" one for the two young Swedish defenders.
"One way or another, those guys are gonna be better at the end of the game here tonight than they were going into it."
What does Keefe mean by this? Well, it's simple, really. He basically means that either they will leave tonight's game knowing that they have the ability to be legitimate top-4 NHL defensemen, or they'll be able to pinpoint some youthful inefficiencies and address them to get better.
Looking forward to seeing what these two can do with more responsibilities and more ice time. Tonight should be a good one, and we could be foreshadowing the future here if all goes well.
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