The Toronto Maple Leafs’ season may be over tonight, but even if they manage to avoid elimination, Jake Muzzin won’t be back for a while. Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters today including Kristen Shilton of TSN that Muzzin will miss a minimum of three weeks with a lower-body injury. The team will insert Rasmus Sandin back into the lineup in Muzzin’s place for tonight’s all-important game seven against the Montreal Canadiens.
Not only have the Maple Leafs lost their captain this series when John Tavares went down with a concussion and sprained MCL, but now they have lost the leader of their defensive group as well. Muzzin, 32, is the team’s most consistent defender, logging more than 21 minutes a night during the regular season, most of which came against the opponent’s best. The former Los Angeles King is one of just a handful of players on the Toronto roster with championship pedigree after winning the Stanley Cup in 2014.
The Maple Leafs did receive some inspiration at morning skate when Tavares attended in a full-contact jersey, but the veteran center will not be in the lineup this evening. He is still recovering from the brutal head injury he suffered in game one. Jason Spezza told reporters that Tavares’ presence at practice provided even more motivation, saying that “the best thing we can do as teammates is win a hockey game for him and give him an opportunity to get closer to playing.”
They’ll have to do it without Muzzin, but there will be at least a little more support for the team tonight. The Ontario government reversed course this morning and announced that 550 fully vaccinated healthcare workers will be in attendance at Scotiabank Arena. This will be the first time the Maple Leafs have played to a home crowd in over a year.