McCabe’s pending return offers relief for battered Maple Leafs defence

McCabe’s pending return offers relief for battered Maple Leafs defence

Marcus Foligno (17) of the Minnesota Wild battles against Jake McCabe (22) of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 14, 2023, in Toronto.

Some relief is in store for the rundown Maple Leafs defence.

After coach Sheldon Keefe observed the five who finished Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Buffalo were the most exhausted he’s seen as an NHL coach, he’s hopeful Jake McCabe will be green-lighted Monday against Tampa Bay.

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The victim of a groin injury 10 days earlier on his first shift in Dallas, he practised regularly with John Klingberg as his partner on Sunday.

Keefe said the decision might go right up until game time on Monday. McCabe certainly wants back in, describing the innocent-looking play that preceded the injury as a first in his career.

The Leafs were without Mark Giordano on Sunday, but the 40-year-old was at the practice rink in what Keefe called a “recovery day” from 22-plus minutes and a team-high six blocked shots.

Maxime Lajoie, used sparingly on Saturday in his Leaf debut, is available, as is fellow call-up Simon Benoit, the two eligible under the salary cap after the Leafs had to put Timothy Liljegren on long-term injured reserve with a high ankle sprain.

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