Maple Leafs should get boost with Morgan Rielly return

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Some much needed good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

Top defenseman Morgan Rielly will be back in the lineup for their massive game against the Tampa Bay Lightning after he missed the past two months due to a broken foot.

Rielly last appeared in a game for the Maple Leafs back on January 12 when he was injured in a brutal 8-4 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The Maple Leafs went 11-9-3 in his absence and enter Tuesday’s game riding a three-game losing streak.

That run came after they had rapidly improved under new coach Sheldon Keefe, going 15-6-2 in the 23 games that preceded Rielly’s absence.

While his overall offensive production has regressed from the 20-goal, 72-point performance he had a year ago, Rielly is still the Maple Leafs’ best all-around defenseman and a huge part of the team’s offense when he’s in the lineup. He plays big minutes on the power play, is their best puck-mover, and their most productive blueliner.

He is also a regular on the team’s penalty kill. They don’t have another defenseman capable of filling his role when he is not there.

The Maple Leafs are just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering play on Tuesday.

Related: Push for the Playoffs: pressure is on Maple Leafs

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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