According to reports on Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs could be getting defenceman Morgan Rielly back from a broken foot for Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If so, it would be a welcome addition for the Leafs who didn’t win a single game through their recent California road trip.
Not only that, but it would be nice gift for both the Maple Leafs and Rielly, that latter of which celebrated his 26th birthday on Monday.
Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe said of the news Rielly might be back, “[Rielly’s] impact on the ice speaks for itself, but the biggest thing for me, at this time of year especially, is just [having] his voice and his presence around the team in the locker room and on the bench.”
Keefe named Rielly as one of the few people on the team who are vocal leaders in the room, the other being Jake Muzzin. “We don’t have a lot of guys that I would say are really the vocal ones, to kind of push you and get you going,” the coach explained. Speaking highly of his two d-men, “they keep it light and keep everyone loose and relaxed and I think that’s important.”
Keeping things light might be important considering recent comments made by Ray Ferraro that there’s no passion on the bench, no chatter and and no anger or emotion.
So too, Auston Matthews is taking some slack by fans for recent comments on how social media will often tear the team down. He said, “If you’re not feeling too good about your game or you maybe had a couple turnovers, probably don’t check your Twitter mentions after, and see all the profiles with no pictures actually shredding your life in half.” That led to fans going bananas over his comments telling him to wipe his tears with $100 bills.
Still, Matthews is having a strong season and the return of Rielly will only help the Leafs try and stay in the postseason picture.
There was no guarantee that Rielly would play tomorrow, just that the team would see how he responded after skating Monday and make a decision Tuesday before the game. Keefe said he’s “optimistic” while Rielly said, “Regardless, it’s a matter of time.”
The Maple Leafs are starting to get healthy at the right time and just need to put it all together. With Cody Ceci back and perhaps Rielly close, the only key piece now missing from the back end is Muzzin who is still out with a broken hand.
Clearly, the rest of the team is glad Rielly is almost back. “The type of player [Rielly] is, he’s a game-changer,” said captain John Tavares. Tavares spoke of his talent, game prep and demeanor in the locker room. “There’s no question he’s a huge part of our lineup and it’s going to be great to have him back.”
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