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Rielly returns from suspension as Maple Leafs look to keep things rolling in Vegas

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Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 month ago
Morgan Rielly’s five-game suspension is officially over, and the 29-year-old defenseman is set to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup tonight in Vegas as they close out the second half of a back-to-back against the Golden Knights.
When it was announced that Rielly’s suspension was five games, it generated a ton of different opinions, as expected. But for Toronto fans, they likely thought their season was going to go downhill in the absence of their best defenseman. Well, it went in the opposite direction.
It’s normal to think losing your best defenseman for five games will affect the team poorly. However, if you dive into the numbers, Toronto is surprisingly a powerhouse without him in the lineup, especially over the last three seasons. According to Statmuse.com, the Maple Leafs have a record of 38-15-5 since 2016-17 without Morgan Rielly in the lineup and are 20-2-1 since the 2020-21 season, thanks to this 5-0-0 run during his suspension. That is simply a crazy stat.
Without Rielly in the lineup, Sheldon Keefe had to play with his pairings on the blue line, and credit to him, he cooked. The pairing of TJ Brodie and Timothy Liljegren played arguably their best hockey this season during that five-game stretch, combing for 11 points and a plus-18 while also playing incredibly away from the puck, outscoring the opposition 7-0 and winning the xGF 53%, according to this post from Jonas Siegel.
It’s unknown what Keefe’s lineup will look like tonight with Rielly returning from his suspension, but after watching the Brodie-Liljegren pairing have so much success, albeit in a small sample size, shouldn’t he keep them together even with Rielly back? The only question is: who would play alongside Morgan Rielly if Brodie-Liljegren and Benoit-McCabe remain together on the blue line?
Toronto didn’t hold a skate this morning in Vegas after their game last night, so until Keefe speaks to the media or we see them take line rushes in warmups, it’s all speculation as to who is playing and where they’re playing. Noah Gregor got into the lineup last night, making Ryan Reaves a scratch after playing in seven consecutive games. But with the back-to-back, it wouldn’t shock me to see Reaves inserted back into the lineup for Gregor, especially against a heavy team like the Vegas Golden Knights.
 

Pregame details:

Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – Max Domi – William Nylander
Bobby McMann – John Tavares – Nick Robertson
Pontus Holmberg – David Kampf – Noah Gregor
TJ Brodie – Timothy Liljegren
Morgan Rielly – Jake McCabe
Simon Benoit – Max Lajoie

Vegas Golden Knights’ lineup:

Ivan Barbashev – Nicolas Roy – Jonathan Marchessault
Paul Cotter – William Karlsson – Keegan Kolesar
Brendan Brisson – Chandler Stephenson – Michael Amadio
Mason Morelli – Byron Froese – Sheldon Rempal
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Projected goalies:

Martin Jones (TOR) vs Adin Hill (VGK)

Broadcast:

TSN4, 10:00 pm ET/7:00 pm PT
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
(Projected lineups from dailyfaceoff.com)

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