TORONTO — Morgan Rielly was placed on long-term injured reserve by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday because of a knee injury.
The defenseman sustained the injury during a collision with the New York Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri 1:06 into the third period of a 3-2 overtime loss on Monday. He played one more shift before leaving the game and finished with two shots on goal in 16:38 of ice time. Rielly has 16 assists in 20 games this season.
“Are you a better team when you have Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie or Jake Muzzin in the lineup?” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Of course you are a better team but it’s not the first time a team has dealt with injuries to key players, it’s not the first time our team has dealt with injuries to key players and each time we’ve responded well, won games, played even better defensively than we were when we had all these guys in the lineup so just continue to play a good sound team game and find ways to win.”
By being placed on long-term injured reserve, Rielly will be out a minimum of 24 days or 10 games, meaning he is eligible to return Dec. 15 at the New York Rangers. Keefe said he will not require surgery.
Muzzin is on LTIR with a cervical spine injury and will be re-evaluated in February. Brodie, who has missed the past five games with an oblique injury, will not travel with the Maple Leafs on their four game road trip which begins against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday (7 pm ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, MSG, MSGSN2 , ESPN+, SN NOW).
“Injuries are a part of the game and it’s up to the next players in to step up and I think all throughout the year we’ve had guys just come in and play really well like (Jordie) Benn, (Victor) Mete, or Filip Kral earlier in the year so I think we have a lot of confidence regardless of who plays,” defenseman Justin Holl he said.
Rielly leads the Maple Leafs in ice time per game (23:00) and is third in blocked shots (24) behind Holl (43) and Mark Giordano (42).
“A lot of speed from the backend and offensive ability and driving the play and obviously our top power play guy as well,” Holl said about the void Rielly’s absence leaves in the lineup. “He plays a ton of minutes so he’s a big loss but at the same time it’s a part of the game and guys will have to step up.”
At practice Tuesday, Rasmus Sandin skated on a pairing with Timothy LiljegrenGiordano with Holl and Benn with Mac Hollowell, who was recalled from Toronto of the American Hockey League and will make his NHL debut against the Devils. Goal was also recalled from Toronto of the AHL on Tuesday.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was a little kid so just hearing my name called feels really good,” Hollowell said. “[I found out] just sitting in the team meeting room on the way out they let the boys know and they were all pretty excited so it’s a good moment for me.
“Probably fast, fast and deliberate. Just making moves and just sticking to them (is my ideal game).”
Sandin practiced in Rielly’s spot on the top power-play unit with forwards John Tavares, Austin Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander.
“Just keep growing in my game, get more comfortable and I feel like the last couple games my confidence is starting to come back a little bit more and I had the courage to make some plays out there, hold on to the puck a little bit more and not do the simple play all the time, the play that I think is the simple play or easy play but it’s not the right play,” Sandin said. “So now I’m starting to feel more comfortable, getting more confidence and I’ve got to keep doing that. It’s big shoes we need to fill now with the rest of our D-corps.”
Sandin has six assists in 20 games this season.
“Huge opportunity there for him, not just him but everybody,” Keefe said. “But with Rasmus in particular, an increased opportunity on the power play, more minutes, I think it’s everything you want as a young player so look to take advantage of it. I think in the last few games I’ve seen a real uptick in his play. I think he is starting to show way more confidence with the puck. He steps in with the fight (with Oliver Wahlstrom) last night, that’s all different things that add to your swagger.”