In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share the latest news we have about Jake Muzzin’s injury. Second, I’ll look at yesterday’s practice to suggest the impact of the line changes that head coach Sheldon Keefe is employing.
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Third, I’ll look specifically at Alex Kerfoot and note what might happen with his deployment. Fourth, I’ll wonder what’s wrong with the team’s fourth line. Finally, I’ll look forward to watching the Robertson brothers (Nick and Jason) play against each other when the Maple Leafs take on the Dallas Stars tonight.
Item One: Jake Muzzin Has Neck Injury, It’s Unsure How Bad
Yesterday, in speaking about his stalwart defenseman, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that there was no timetable for Muzzin’s return from the neck injury he suffered during Monday’s game with the Arizona Coyotes.
Putting the puzzle pieces together, there seem to be three good bits of good news about the injury.
First, it isn’t another concussion. In fact, Keefe went on to specifically add that Muzzin’s injury was not a recurrence of any previous head injury. Second, Muzzin attended a Maple Leafs’ event on Tuesday evening at the team’s facility. Third, he was not put on LTIR. Instead, he was placed on the IR. That usually is a sign that the injury is less severe.
On the other side of the coin, Mitch Marner’s comments seemed to outline a more serious problem. Marner noted about Muzzin: “Obviously for him, it’s just making sure that, if he does come back and play this year, or whatever happens, just make sure that he’s going to be able to do whatever he wants to do the rest of his life and enjoy the time with his family, his kids.”
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That leaves outsiders to speculate that the injury might be career-threatening. But, the truth is that no one knows.
In the practical matters about game action, with Muzzin injured, Wednesday’s practice saw Rasmus Sandin skate with Justin Holl and Victor Mete skate with Mark Giordano.
Item Two: The Maple Leafs’ Practice Lines
Here are the line combinations reported by Daily Faceoff and updated yesterday.
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First Line: Bunting-Matthews-Marner
Second Line: Nylander-Tavares-Robertson
Third Line: Engvall-Kerfoot-Jarnkrok
Fourth Line: Aston-Reese-Kampf-Aube-Kubel
Extras: Malgin, Simmonds
First Defensive Pairing: Rielly-Brodie
Second Defensive Pairing: Sandin-Holl
Third Defensive Pairing: Giordano-Mete
Item Three: Might There Be Changes with Alex Kerfoot’s Deployment?
Alex Kerfoot has been centring the team’s third line with Pierre Engvall and Calle Jarnkrok as his wingers. It should be a good line because of its speed and hockey IQ but has had some up-and-down games. However, if Wednesday’s practice is to be trusted, are some changes on the way?
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Specifically, Kerfoot found himself on the second power-play unit in yesterday’s practice. As well, Sandin was the only defenseman on that unit. The other players on that unit were Michael Bunting, Calle Jarnkrok, and Nick Robertson.
Item Four: The Fourth Line Has Been Surprisingly Disappointing
One area I was particularly interested in watching this season was the Maple Leafs’ fourth line of Nicolas Aube-Kubel, David Kampf, and Zach Aston-Reese. That line has not performed as I believed it would. I expected much more from this fourth line.
Instead, by all measurements, their play has been disappointing. Their ice time is dropping. In fact, Aube-Kubel’s ice time dropped to a season-low mark of only 6:15 against the Coyotes. While the line remains together in practice and will likely play against the Dallas Stars tonight, it would seem something will have to give to keep that line together.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Tonight will be an interesting night for the Robertson brothers. Nick will face brother Jason when the Stars and Maple Leafs face each other tonight. About a month ago, Nick noted that he had circled his calendar with today’s date on it.
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Although Jason was a holdout throughout much of the offseason, he finally signed a long-term contract at $7.75 million through the 2025-26 season. It should be fun to watch the brothers play against each other.