If the Maple Leafs are going to beat the Canadiens in Game 7 on Monday night, they are not only going to have to do so without the services of their captain, John Tavares, who remains out of the lineup, but also without Jake Muzzin, one of their most valuable and best all-around defenders.
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe announced on Monday morning that Muzzin is going to be sidelined for a minimum of three weeks due to a lower-body injury that he suffered in the Game 6 loss on.
That is a significant blow to Toronto’s blue line for both Monday’s winner-take-all game, and beyond if they are able to beat Montreal.
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Morgan Reilly and Mitch Marner are the only two players on the Maple Leafs roster that play more minutes than Muzzin on a nightly basis, and he is their steadiest defensive presence. He can also contribute offensively with 27 points in 53 games this season, while also adding two goals and an assist so far in this series. In short: He does a little bit of everything from the blue line, and now Toronto is going to have to make do without him.
Rasmus Sandin will be in the lineup in Muzzin’s place.
As for Tavares, he made an appearance on the ice during their optional morning skate as he continues to recover from a concussion and a knee injury that he suffered in Game 1 of the series. Keefe said that while Tavares has had no setbacks from the concussion and is recovering well, he is still not available to play and there remains no timeline for his return to game action. Monday’s morning skate appearance was simply part of the recovery process, while the Maple Leafs will continue to be cautious with his return.
MAPLE LEAFS VS. CANADIENS (Series tied 3-3) – series livestream link
Game 1: Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1
Game 2: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1
Game 4: Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0
Game 5: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT)
Game 6: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Monday, May 31: Canadiens at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.