MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: Rielly's stamina doesn't go unnoticed

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Morgan Rielly has a big fan in Dave Hakstol.

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With the Maple Leafs grinding through several injuries in the defence corps, Rielly has stepped up, logging more minutes than usual and providing consistency that’s crucial with so many new faces. 

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Hakstol, the coach of the Seattle Kraken and former Leafs assistant, has noticed from afar.

Rielly played 30 minutes 30 seconds on Tuesday in the Leafs’ 2-1 shootout win against the Florida Panthers, and Hakstol used that as a starting point in complimenting the longest-serving current Leaf.

Those minutes marked a season-high for Rielly and it was the fourth time in his National Hockey League career that he topped 30 minutes in one game.

“You don’t play 30 minutes a night, I don’t care how often it is, you don’t do that without being extremely competitive and mentally strong,” Hakstol said on Thursday. “Mo’s game, he uses his legs so well, that’s a huge component within his game. 

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“How well he skates allows him to defend and allows him to be really effective up ice and it ties his entire game together. Extremely competitive guy.”

Rielly habitually has led the Leafs in ice time for several seasons, and going into the match on Thursday against Seattle, was averaging 25 minutes five seconds a game. His career-high average in a season was 24 minutes 12 seconds, done in 2019-20.

“You always want more ice time, more responsibilities,” Rielly said. “When that comes, you want to make the most of it and you want to play well and help your team.”

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, meanwhile, confirmed the severity of Mark Giordano’s injury on Thursday morning. The 40-year-old defenceman suffered a broken finger against Florida and will be out of the lineup on a week-to-week basis.

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Timothy Liljegren was back on the ice for the first time on Wednesday in his recovery from a sprained ankle, but is not close to returning. Keefe said there was no update on the status of John Klingberg, who is on longterm injured reserve because of a hip problem and has been consulting doctors this week. 

The Leafs recalled Max Lajoie from the Toronto Marlies, but it was William Lagesson who drew into the lineup versus Seattle. Simon Benoit also has been getting more playing time because of the injuries.


Some players shrug off hitting milestones, indicating they will think about them more once they are done playing.

Not so with Leafs winger Max Domi, who didn’t take it for granted when he skated in his 600th NHL game last Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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“Definitely a proud moment for sure,” Domi said. “And it was also ‘Holy smokes, you’ve been around for a long time now.’

“I’ve still got a long way to go, but I guess I’m more of a veteran now than I ever have been, which is crazy. It feels like yesterday I was just coming in the league. Time flies.”

We get Domi’s point. It doesn’t seem that long ago since when we covered Domi in the world junior hockey championship in Montreal and Toronto, but nearly nine years have passed since Domi helped Canada win gold in 2015.

Domi made his NHL debut on Oct. 9, 2015 with the Arizona Coyotes and scored that night on Jonathan Quick, then with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Leafs are Domi’s seventh NHL team, and though he has been on the move a lot, he didn’t sound like he would trade those experiences for anything, all the while playing with Type 1 diabetes.

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“Played for a lot of cool teams, a lot of great memories,” Domi said. “You get to play one game in the best league in the world, it’s special. When you play 600, it’s pretty awesome. You just want to keep chipping away and play as many games as you can while you’re trying to win. 

“I’m very lucky and I’m so grateful for it. There’s a lot of sacrifices and hard work that goes on behind the scenes, with the training staff here, what do you do in the offseason, a lot of sacrifices as a kid. This is what we all play for, the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup every year. Couldn’t ask for a better job.”

The game against Seattle was Domi’s 602nd in the NHL, and he still has some seasons ahead of him before he would catch his dad. Tie Domi played in 1,020 NHL games, with the Leafs, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.

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Heading into Thursday, the Kraken was the only NHL team this season to use just six defencemen. San Jose had used an NHL-high 11, while the Leafs were one of four teams that had used 10. “It has been a strength of our D corps to stay together,” Seattle’s Vince Dunn said. “We’re a really tight group. We’ve done a pretty good job as pairings of understanding our strengths and weaknesses.” … Hakstol was a Leafs assistant coach during the worst days of the pandemic and witnesses a different city when he returns to Toronto. “I love coming back,” said Hakstol, an Alberta native. “One of the things that struck me today is just how lively downtown Toronto is from a couple of years ago, and that’s awesome to see. That leads into everything in the building here. It’s always a special place to come back to.” … Domi on running his fingers through his hair after fighting the Panthers’ follicly challenged Sam Bennett: “Spur of the moment emotions, just making sure my head was still there,” Domi said.

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