Timothy Lillegren blocked a shot with his hand and was unable to return it during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday.
But the Maple Leafs got good news after the game that X-rays on his hand came back negative and that the defenseman was in some discomfort and is expected to be in the starting lineup against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
“I felt good, I can shoot and pass, so I should be good,” Lillegren said.
The Swedish defender’s absence would be another blow to the rear, which has seen many of its top players miss games. Morgan Riel is out again due to a knee injury and is not expected to return to the lineup this year. Jake Muzzin is out indefinitely with a cervical spine problem and will be re-evaluated in February. TJ Brodie returned this week after missing three weeks with an oblique injury.
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During this time, Lillegren found some chemistry with fellow Swede Rasmus Sandin in the second pairing defense role.
“He’s played great and you don’t want to see any interruption in the momentum he’s built here,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Lillegren.
Lillegren, 23, missed the start of the season due to hernia surgery. In 20 games this season, the defenseman scored 2 goals and 3 assists and averaged less than 18:30 ice time.
The Leafs called up Mac Hollowell as a precaution. Although Jordy Benn was activated from injured reserve after an upper-body injury, Keefe said there was another player who took a hit that made Hollowell’s call up a necessity.