Leafs suffer another defensive blow, place Morgan Rielly on LTIR with knee injury

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs' defence has taken another huge hit after the team placed Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury.

The 28-year-old was hurt on an awkward collision with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto's 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home Monday.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said following Tuesday's practice his No. 1 defenceman doesn't need surgery, adding there's no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on LTIR.

Rielly's injury is a major blow to a defence corps already missing shutdown option Jake Muzzin long-term with a neck injury and top-4 blue-liner T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

"Are you a better team with Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin in the lineup? Of course," Keefe said. "But it's not the first time a team has dealt with injuries to key players, it's not the first time our team has dealt with injuries to key players.

"Each time we've responded well, won games, played even better defensively than we were when we had all these guys in the lineup. So, just continue to play a good, sound team game, and find ways to win."

Originally expected out two weeks when placed on injured reserve Nov. 14, Keefe said recently Brodie is recovering slower than anticipated and will miss Toronto's upcoming four-game road trip starting Wednesday against the surging New Jersey Devils.

Muzzin, meanwhile, is currently on LTIR and will be re-evaluated in late February.

Toronto will now be forced to lean even more heavily on veteran Mark Giordano and Justin Holl, along with youngsters Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, with Rielly sidelined.

In corresponding moves Tuesday, the Leafs recalled defencemen Mac Hollowell and Victor Mete from the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.

The Canadian Press