TORONTO — Half of the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ top six defencemen are hobbled by injury, and none of those injured players are coming back anytime soon.
Mark Giordano, 40, sustained a broken finger blocking a shot early in Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Florida Panthers and is now listed as week-to-week.
Add in Timothy Liljegren (high-ankle sprain) and John Klingberg (hip) — both of whom are on long-term injured reserve — and the Maple Leafs are leaning heavily on recalls and extra minutes for Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie and Jake McCabe.
“It requires that you’re playing together and supporting one another in all areas of the game, with the puck, without the puck. Defending with numbers,” coach Sheldon Keefe said Thursday, ahead of the Leafs’ home date versus the Seattle Kraken.
“When adversity hits — in this case, injuries — guys need to step up in that manner. It’s not just those coming in that have to do a job. Everybody else has gotta pick up the slack a little bit.”
Rielly skated a season-high 30:30(!) Tuesday. He welcomes the ice time but realizes it will take a team effort to succeed through this run of bad fortunate.
“Working together,” Rielly said. “Our group has had injuries already this year. We’ve managed to be OK.
“The expectation is that there’s not going to be any issues with guys playing their off sides or anything like that.”
Rest assured, Rielly, Brodie and McCabe will be moved around the lineup to shelter the less-trusted defencemen in Toronto’s lineup during this injury storm.
General manager Brad Treliving continues to work the phones in search of outside defensive help via trade.
One-Timers: Liljegren will miss his 11th game Thursday and is “not close” to a return, according to Keefe. On Wednesday, the defenceman did skate for the first time since his Nov. 2 injury, a positive sign for the club. … No update yet on whether Klingberg will elect surgery. … Keefe said giving Joseph Woll his third consecutive start in net was an easy decision: “He hasn’t had a dip.” … Max “The Rog” Lajoie has been recalled from the Marlies to serve as Toronto’s seventh defenceman. … Bobby McMann draws into the fourth line and Ryan Reaves will be scratched.
Maple Leafs projected lines vs. Kraken Thursday:
Knies – Matthews – Nylander
Bertuzzi – Tavares – Marner
Robertson – Domi – Järnkrok
McMann – Kämpf – Gregor
Rielly – Brodie
Lagesson – McCabe
Benoit – Timmins