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Muzzin absence provides opportunity for Sandin, Liljegren;Leafs vs. Rangers

January 19, 2022, 2:50 PM ET [482 Comments]
Mike Augello
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As most NHL clubs have, the Toronto Maple Leafs have faced challenges due to COVID absences or injuries this season, and that will be the case once again as the Leafs continue their January road swing against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

Defenseman Jake Muzzin missed practice before the club departed for the Big Apple, and head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that he took a hit in the 6-5 win over St. Louis on Saturday and did not feel right during practice on Monday. The veteran blueliner was diagnosed with a concussion and will miss the Rangers game and Saturday night’s contest against the New York Islanders.

With Justin Holl in COVID protocol and still quarantining in Arizona, Alex Biega has been recalled on an emergency basis from the AHL Toronto Marlies and will play on the bottom pairing with Travis Dermott, while Rasmus Sandin will take Muzzin’s place in the second pairing with countryman Timothy Liljegren.

Liljegren scored his first NHL goal on Saturday and has shown the potential that was expected from highly touted 2017 first round pick, but both prospects will be tested playing major minutes against one of the top teams in the NHL.

"It's a terrific opportunity. It's one that Liljegren has had a pretty good chunk of time here now before Christmas, and then huge minutes the other night in St. Louis, playing up in the top four, killing penalties going against the other team's best players and naturally just being paired with Muzzin, you're going to get some tough matchups." Keefe said. "Sandin will get an opportunity here. I think for a younger player, it's what you want. I mean every player it starts where you want to just get in the lineup and give yourself an opportunity to show that you can play in the league and then the next piece is that you can elevate into the top four and take on greater matchups and greater minutes."

Other than Biega, the Leafs will go with the same lineup that played against the Blues, including Jack Campbell making his 28th start of the season. Igor Shesterkin (17-4-2, 1.99 GAA, .939 save %) is expected to get the start for New York, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.


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