Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe forced to make changes due to injury

Ryan Smitheram
March 26, 2024  (12:01)

Morgan Rielly is a game-time decision tonight
Photo credit: NHL

A tightly contested 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday evening on the second half of a back-to-back led to the Toronto Maple Leafs having yesterday off. The team returned to practice this morning with a few notable surprises. First, Matt Murray spent the entire practice with the team as he continues to rehab his hips, replacing Ilya Samsonov, who is out with a minor injury. Second, head coach Sheldon Keefe was forced to shuffle his defensive pairings amid a pair of surprising absences, as Morgan Rielly and Joel Edmundson were also absent from practice.

Following practice, Keefe said that both Rielly and Edmundson should be considered day-to-day. Keefe confirmed he does not expect Edmundson to play the rest of the week while Rielly is a game-time decision tonight. Should Rielly not play and with Edmundson out, the Leafs' defensive pairings were shuffled drastically at practice. Jake McCabe skated with Timothy Liljegren, while T.J. Brodie was paired with Ilya Lyubushkin, keeping Brodie on the left side. The third pair featured Simon Benoit and Conor Timmins.
Up front, it appears Tyler Bertuzzi has recovered from his illness as he skated next to Auston Matthews and Max Domi on the Leafs' top line. Sheldon Keefe appears to be going with a "kid" line as he had Matthew Knies, Pontus Holmberg and Nicholas Robertson skating together as Bobby McMann remained with John Tavares and William Nylander. The fourth line sees Connor Dewar and Noah Gregor centered by David Kampf, which means that Ryan Reaves is the odd man out.
After stopping 41 of 43 shots on Sunday against Carolina, Keefe also confirmed that Joseph Woll will get his second straight start tonight against New Jersey. Keefe had previously confirmed that Ilya Samsonov and Woll would split the remaining 14 games for the Leafs, but noted that it wouldn't necessarily be alternating.
While many would expect it to be a test for the Leafs' blueline if Rielly is unable to play, it would not come as a surprise if they had one of their best games of the season as the Leafs went 5-0 without him while he was serving his 5-game suspension for cross-checking Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Grieg in the head earlier this season.
MARCH 26   |   305 ANSWERS
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe forced to make changes due to injury

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