The Toronto Maple Leafs have been walking wounded almost all season. It seems like every time a player returns from injury, another gets hurt. As the Maple Leafs limp towards what they hope is a playoff spot, their injured players will return soon.
Cody Ceci has been activated from Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) and Morgan Rielly is expected to return next week. That will then be followed by the return of Ilya Mikheyev later in the month. If the Maple Leafs are lucky, they will also get Jake Muzzin back before the playoffs start. Let’s hope there are no setbacks with any of them.
After tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Maple Leafs will have three days off. They will return to action on March 10th against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If they are able to get Rielly back in time for that game, it would greatly help the defence. Hopefully the Maple Leafs will have Ceci and Rielly back before they play the Boston Bruins next Saturday (March 14th).
Once both defensemen return they will be looked upon to play 20 plus minutes a night. That will be a relief to players such as Justin Holl, Travis Dermott, Martin Marincin and rookie Rasmus Sandin. Both Holl and Dermott have looked out of place lately and it could be from the larger workload. The return of Rielly and Ceci should also see Marincin and Timothy Liljegren returned to the Toronto Marlies.
The Maple Leafs will have to wait a little longer for Mikheyev to return. Mikheyev became a key part of the team’s top six pretty early in the season. His return to this lineup will be a huge boost for the entire forward group. Players like Pierre Engvall and Denis Malgin can stick to playing bottom six roles. Alexander Kerfoot can play his normal role as third line centre and not on the wing where he has struggled.
The Maple Leafs have a very crucial week at the end of March that includes a game against the Florida Panthers. That game could have large playoff implications depending on where both teams sit in the standings by then. If Mikheyev is back in time for that game than the Maple Leafs will have a better chance for success.
Last But Not Least
Muzzin who has been out with a broken hand since February 25th could return in time to play the last three or four games of the season. The earliest return would be on March 28th against the Ottawa Senators or March 31st against the Washington Capitals. Right before his injury, Muzzin was starting to play really well. When he rejoins the team I think he will make an immediate impact. His return is crucial come playoff time.
It is amazing that this team has somehow been able to remain in the playoff hunt after all the injuries that they have had. Once these four players return from injury, let us hope the Maple Leafs can enter the playoffs with a healthy roster. I would like to see what this team can do when it is 100 percent healthy.
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