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Muzzin out 4 weeks with broken hand

Jake Muzzin is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena.
Jake Muzzin is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena.

SUNRISE, Fla. – The Maple Leafs’ road to the playoffs just got all that harder with confirmation that rock-solid defenceman Jake Muzzin will be out four weeks with a broken hand.

Muzzin, in his first game Tuesday night after signing a new four-year contract, had scored and was providing support to an eventual 4-3 win in Tampa Bay when he departed the game in the second period with a shot block injury.

With Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci already out a couple of more weeks at least with injuries, Calle Rosen was called up from the AHL Toronto Marlies.

He was just re-acquired on NHL trade deadline day from Colorado , but had this Muzzin mishap occurred 48 hours earlier, the Leafs might have tried harder to land an experienced blueliner.

The latest injury leaves coach Sheldon Keefe with Justin Holl and Martin Marincin as his lone shutdown defencemen, though they might not play together.

With the third pairing of rookies Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren getting roughed up, but surviving a severe test against the Lightning, Tyson Barrie, Rosen, Travis Dermott, Holl and Marincin will have to form some kind of chemistry.

Keefe will further address the situation this afternoon when the Leafs practice in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers are a regulation win away here Thursday from knocking the Leafs out of their third-place playoff spot.

The Leafs did survive a three-week absence of Muzzin in January with a broken foot, but that was with Rielly and Ceci healthy.

With the Leafs down to 18 games, the projected four-week absence could optimistically see Muzzin back by the last week of regular season. Among the games he’ll miss is his homecoming to Los Angeles on March 5 with ex-King teammates Kyle Clifford and goalie Jack Campbell.

Muzzin had three goals in his past six games and has 23 points in 53 games this season.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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