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Maple Leafs notes: Muzzin placed on long-term injured reserve

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Dollars and common sense have been applied to Jake Muzzin’s medical condition.

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After his second head injury Monday night in Montreal — much worse than the blow a few weeks earlier — the Maple Leafs are giving their most physical defenseman some extra time to recover for the playoffs. The Cap Friendly and Puckpedia websites showed the Leafs moving Muzzin to long-term injured reserve Wednesday night.

The designation will sideline Muzzin for at least 10 games and 24 days and open up much-needed cap space for a team that’s been scratching the ceiling all season. Whether the Leafs already have a player to acquire some or all of the US$5.625 million now available remains to be seen.

Other moves, the move of fellow defenseman Rasmus Sandin to the Marlies (he doesn’t need a waiver) and the advancement of defensemen Kristians Rubins, Brennan Menell and their combined minimum wage salaries indicate the Leafs have lined up the magic number to take full advantage of the LTIR.

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Wednesday was a team day off, so coach Sheldon Keefe will have to shed some light on the plan and its roster ahead of Thursday’s game against Minnesota, unless boss Kyle Dubas already has something in his pocket. back.

Dubas traded for defender Ilya Lyubushkin on Saturday, but before Muzzin was injured and Justin Holl had a few tough games.

THE SECOND LINE MUST SHINE

The Leafs’ Core Four offense has been reduced to a two-man team.

Which is a dilemma as Toronto have lost three in a row for the first time since October. Everyone is used to John Tavares and William Nylander lighting it up on the power play with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and sometimes outplaying the other duo 5-on-5.

February is a short calendar month, but it must have been dragging on for Tavares. He hasn’t scored since Jan. 29 against Detroit, a 10-year low, while Nylander has managed just two since Jan. 26, both in last week’s loss to St. Louis. It is minus-7 this month.

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Tavares has had seven assists in his last eight games so he hasn’t gone away. Still, smashing his stick on the ice in frustration in Columbus on Tuesday after a near miss was out of place for the level-headed captain.

Keefe was repeatedly asked about Tavares’ downfall and specifically Tuesday’s mini-snit. But he doesn’t default to the need for the whole line to improve, with left winger Alex Kerfoot, rather than approaching a coach versus captain narrative.

“My goal is how they played defensively,” insisted Keefe after the 4-3 overtime loss, a reasonable take given the team’s poor coverage in Montreal. “The offense will come. I wanted all four lines to play well (on neutral ice) and use the bench, which I think would be important in back-to-back games. It hurt our attack in the first half, but we didn’t give up much.

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“It will come for them – as long as they have a good process to (defend themselves).”

WELCOME ABOARD

While initially worried about rushing Lyubushkin into the lineup too quickly, Keefe was encouraged by the great Russian defender’s opener.

“He fought hard and had a lot of guys on (Columbus) trying to fight him for parts of the game. That’s a pretty good sign that you’re in the game and they know you’re there.

“The guys were happy to have him, cheering him on the bench.”

Lyubushkin had only one pre-game meeting and skating with his new team, having been off the ice for a few days since the trade. He headed north to join them and get his Canadian work visa in order.

Keefe is usually a stickler for prep time, but Muzzin’s crash and Holl’s shaky play led to the new one being activated. He was about to score a late Jackets goal, a bad jump as much as any miss on his part.

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“I can’t imagine jumping like that,” Matthews said. “New situation, new team. But he makes simple plays, he is stable with the puck. Once he starts training and playing he will be a very good player for us.

Lyubushkin ignored the lack of familiarity.

“If you want to become a professional player, you have to get used to the changes. You join a team, even in the NHL, and you have to play well (right now). I’m so excited to play here.

BEST FRONT FOOT

Jason Spezza tied with Paul Kariya on the NHL’s top 100 points list (989) in Tuesday’s late tying goal, but was reviewed to confirm he was braking instead of kicking. foot in the puck.

“We felt confident,” Keefe said during the tense delay. “His foot is planted; it was directional, not a kick. But until (the war room in) Toronto makes the call and they announce it, you’re not really sure.

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LOOSE LEAF

Keefe on Tuesday’s second-period last-minute call on Morgan Rielly: “We can’t take this penalty, we have to deal with it better. We didn’t, and we opened the door (for Adam Boqvist’s easy goal on Jack Campbell)”…Campbell would like to come back right away against the Wild on Thursday at home, which would pit Petr Mrazek against his former Detroit club. Saturday for the second time in a month. He won the first Test, 7-4… Thursday is the 20th anniversary of Team Canada winning gold at the Salt Lake City Olympics, a 5-2 victory over the American Leafs. General manager/coach Pat Quinn, goaltender Curtis Joseph, future team president Brendan Shanahan and future players Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, Owen Nolan, Michael Peca and Eric Brewer were on the winning side.

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