Jake Muzzin coming out of the Leafs' lineup ahead of Tuesday's game (undisclosed)

Mike Armenti
April 11, 2022  (2:08 PM)

The Leafs were able to clinch a playoff spot on Saturday night with a victory over the Montreal Canadiens and will now turn their attention to the postseason and determining what the optimal lineup will be for a very important first round of the playoffs.

The most obvious battle is on the 4th line, with a revolving door of changes featuring Jason Spezza, Colin Blackwell, Nick Abruzzese, Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford. The battle could also soon include 19-year-old Matthew Knies, should the NCAA standout decide to go pro this week. There is also another battle going on in the lineup; the battle of the blueliners.
With Jake Muzzin returning from injury this past week, it has caused
a bit of a log jam on the back end for the Buds. Thus far, we have seen Ilya Lyubushkin and Timothy Liljegren battling to get into the lineup. The battle will only intensify when the time comes for Rasmus Sandin to re-enter the lineup.
On Monday, it was Jake Muzzin who was skating as the team's extra defenseman, indicating that we'll see Liljegren come back in on Tuesday when the Leafs take on the Buffalo Sabres. Muzzin has played in the Leafs' last 3 games after missing 20 games with a concussion. Muzzin's reason for coming out is listed as "undisclosed". We do know, per Sheldon Keefe, that Muzzin's ailment is not related to his previous injury and he is not expected to miss much time.
Keefe is likely going to continue tinkering until the final few games of the season when he identifies what he feels the Leafs' optimal pairings are. The other option is to continue swapping guys in and out throughout the playoffs, depending on the matchups. To be honest, having 8 NHL-caliber defensemen is a great problem to have for the Leafs and could really come in handy throughout the postseason when the bumps and bruises begin to pile up.
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Jake Muzzin coming out of the Leafs' lineup ahead of Tuesday's game (undisclosed)

What is the optimal third pairing for the Leafs?

Muzzin/Liljegren3513.2 %
Sandin/Liljegren4115.4 %
Muzzin/Holl249 %
Giordano/Liljegren16662.4 %
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