Rielly returns as the Maple Leafs look to clinch a playoff berth tonight against the Lightning

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
For the past couple of weeks, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been playing short-handed without five regulars in their lineup, including one of their best forwards and one of their best defensemen. Tonight, after missing the last four games, Morgan Rielly returns to the Maple Leafs’ lineup on the night his team can clinch a playoff spot for the eighth consecutive season.
Coming off a crazy 6-4 win against the Florida Panthers less than 48 hours ago, the Maple Leafs are on a three-game winning streak and winners of six of their last ten games, only four points back of the Panthers with two games in hand for the second spot in the Atlantic division.
A month ago, the idea that Toronto could get home-ice advantage in the first round or somehow win the division was far-fetched. With two weeks to go in the season, Toronto sits four points back of Florida for second place with two games in hand and eight points back of Boston for the division lead with two games in hand. Games in hand mean nothing unless you win them, so it’ll be an interesting last two weeks of the season for this race in the Atlantic division, especially given Boston and Florida play each other one more time.
The Maple Leafs are getting a key contributor back on their blue line ahead of their first-round rematch of last season’s playoffs. After nearly five months since their previous meeting in Toronto, the Maple Leafs will host the Lightning for the third of four meetings this season with a chance to clinch their eighth consecutive playoff berth with a single point in tonight’s game. No game is easy in the NHL, but if Toronto could clinch a spot in the 2024 playoffs with a win over the team they knocked out a year prior, that’d be something.
With Rielly’s return to the blue line, Mark Giordano is the odd man out. After skating in three games after returning from a concussion, the veteran blue-liner recorded one goal and was a plus-one during Toronto’s three-game winning streak. The 40-year-old will likely get back into the lineup toward the final couple of games on the schedule but will still serve as a reliable depth option for Toronto.

Pregame details:

Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews – Max Domi
Bobby McMann – John Tavares – William Nylander
Matthew Knies – Pontus holmberg – Nick Robertson
Connor Dewar – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
T.J. Brodie – Jake McCabe
Morgan Rielly – Ilya Lyubushkin
Simon Benoit – Conor Timmins
One lineup note: With Rielly back in the mix, he’ll be projected on a pairing with Ilya Lyubushkin, with T.J. Brodie and Jake McCabe together and Simon Benoit alongside Conor Timmins. The forward lines remain the same, and after coming off a two-goal performance with his not-so-new-but-new-look-first-line, Auston Matthews will look to inch closer to breaking Alex Ovechkin’s salary cap era goal record (65) and ultimately 70.

Tampa Bay Lightning’s lineup:

Anthony Duclair – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Steven Stamkos – Anthony Cirelli – Brandon Hagel
Michael Eyssimont – Nicholas Paul – Mitchell Chaffee
Tanner Jeannot – Luke Glendening – Tyler Motte
Victor Hedman – Darren Raddysh
Haydn Fleury – Erik Cernak
Emil Martinsen-Lilleberg – Matt Dumba

Projected goalies:

Joseph Woll (TOR) vs Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)
Ilya Samsonov had the last two starts against the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, winning both, but Joseph Woll was Toronto’s first goalie off the ice this morning and is the projected starter for tonight’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
(Projected lineups from dailyfaceoff.com)
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