After missing the past five games with a lower body injury, defenceman Morgan Rielly could return to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup on Tuesday night when they take on the Dallas Stars.
Rielly was skating in his regular spot beside Nikita Zaitsev and took part in all the drills, including the penalty kill. With the Leafs set to begin a stretch that will see them play five games in eight nights, they could use Rielly back in the lineup.
While this is an important stretch for Toronto, having Rielly for the long-term is more important than trying to rush him back for the short-term, which is something the 22-year-old defenceman admitted he tried to do.
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“I think I got a little ahead of myself and tried to skate too soon,” Rielly said to TSN’s Kristen Shilton. “The training staff here is great and they pulled me off pretty quick. But I’ve come a long way since then, and I’m looking forward to the next couple days trying to get back and help the team.”
With Toronto only one point out of a playoff spot, you can understand why Rielly is doing everything he can to get back into the lineup. But with Toronto’s grueling upcoming schedule, the team has every reason to be cautious with him.
Head coach Mike Babcock did not say whether Rielly would play on Tuesday, which isn’t surprising, but he did say the team will decide after morning skate on Tuesday.
Based on the pairings at practice on Monday, Rielly, if he’s able to play, will skate with his usual partner Nikita Zaitsev, while Jake Gardiner will skate with Connor Carrick, and Martin Marincin will skate with Roman Polak.
That would lead us to believe that Matt Hunwick will be a healthy scratch on Tuesday, along with Frank Corrado. If these pairings stick, it would only be the second time Hunwick has been scratched during his career with the Maple Leafs.
What are your thoughts on Morgan Rielly possibly returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup? Do you think scratching Matt Hunwick is a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.