Sheldon Keefe makes a surprising healthy scratch ahead of Tuesday's game against Florida

Published April 5, 2022 at 6:24 PM
BY MIKE ARMENTI
With Jake Muzzin set to return to action after missing 20 games with a concussion, the Leafs had a very difficult decision to make regarding who would come out of the lineup. While most figured it would be one of Justin Holl or Timothy Liljegren coming out, Sheldon Keefe's announcement stunned Leafs Nation a bit.

Per a report from The Leafs Nation's David Alter, Sheldon Keefe has confirmed that both Liljegren and Holl would remain in the lineup and that it would be newcomer Ilya Lyubushkin coming out in favour of Jake Muzzin.

Lyubushkin has been a revelation for the Leafs since coming over in the Nick Ritchie trade back on February 20th. When the trade had occurred, Lyubushkin was projecting to play on the Leafs' bottom pair, but once the Russian Bear made his Leafs debut, it became apparent that he could play much higher in the lineup.

Lyubushkin has been playing the vast majority of his time on the team's top pair with Morgan Rielly and despite originally looking like an unlikely pairing, they have actually found a good deal of synergy with one another.


As far as how the defensive pairings will shape up, T.J. Brodie has already confirmed that he will be back with Morgan Rielly on Tuesday in Florida. Sheldon Keefe has also revealed that the plan is to ease Muzzin into the game, so it's likely that we'll see him on the third pair.

With Mark Giordano and Timothy Liljegren showing a high level of chemistry since Giordano's debut following the NHL's trade deadline, it's likely that they'll remain together. At this point, my best guess is that we'll see Rielly and Brodie together on the top pair, Gio and Liljegren forming the team's second pair and Muzzin and his most familiar defense partner in Justin Holl rounding things out on pair 3.

In terms of whether or not this means that Lyubushkin will be the odd man out for the Leafs come playoff time, Keefe threw some water on that immediately, stating that Lyubushkin would be right back in the lineup sooner than later.


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