We received more clarity on Jake Muzzin’s status today from @LeafsPR. It has also been announced that TJ Brodie has been placed on IR with an oblique injury.

First and foremost, let’s hope for the best for Muzzin’s health and well-being as cervical spine injuries can be extremely serious, to state the obvious.

The writing was on the wall that there was a serious (and non-concussion-related) issue with Muzzin between the very vague timelines and non-existent progress updates, Mitch Marner’s publicly-stated concerns about Muzzin’s livelihood outside of the game of hockey, and the Leafs bringing him on their California road trip to visit medical specialists for his particular (now revealed to be cervical spine) injury.

The reevaluation in late February times up with the trade deadline, when the team will need to make a decision as to whether they will be pressing ahead with their deadline additions using LTIR cap relief on Muzzin’s contract or attempting to reintegrate Muzzin into the lineup and get him up to speed in time for the playoffs. The odds certainly don’t sound favourable for a return this season based on the reports, but a layman speculating on matters of spinal health is a fool’s errand.

Whatever the decision, let’s hope and assume it will only be made with the best interests of Muzzin’s long-term, post-playing-career health and well-being in mind.

The much shorter-term absence of TJ Brodie comes at a time when the Maple Leafs will visit Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh — which has been a house of horrors at times for them in recent years — on Tuesday before hosting the league’s hottest team in the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

Brodie will be placed on IR (minimum of seven days absence) retroactive to either Friday or Saturday, which means he is likely out for the next three games vs. Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Buffalo at a minimum.

For now, the Leafs will likely carry over their pairings from the win against Vancouver, with Jordie Benn playing alongside Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren next to Rasmus Sandin, and Mark Giordano with Justin Holl. The veteran Giordano, in particular, will be picking up quite a bit of the slack: In Saturday’s win without Brodie, he clocked a season-high 21:43, with him and Holl playing around five minutes apiece on the penalty kill.

The biggest key to surviving without one of their most relied-on 5v5 defensemen is going to involve leaning on the structure of their five-man defense and the support of the forward group.  At 5v5, while the number of rush opportunities conceded has been a real issue for the team at times, the Leafs have generally supported their defense and goaltenders well in-zone by protecting the critical ice and limiting high-danger chances with their defensive structure. That commitment will need to be renewed as the blue line is going to be stretched thin without Brodie.

It also comes at a time when Matt Murray is looking to get back up to speed in his return to the crease, possibly in his old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. Some stiff tests are in store for the Maple Leafs this week.

Update on Ilya Samsonov (Noon EST):