The Toronto Maple Leafs’ best defenseman is looking at missing some time for a dangerous act.
On Sunday, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced that Morgan Rielly will have an in-person hearing for cross-checking Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Greig.
Rielly is eligible to be suspended for five games or more.
The incident happened in the final seconds of regulation in Saturday night’s edition of the Battle of Ontario. With the Maple Leafs’ net empty, trailing 4-3, Greig had a chance to ice the game. The 21-year-old elected to wind up and blast the puck into the empty cage.
Then, Rielly, none to be pleased by the act, went after Greig, cross-checking him in the head. That kickstarted a brief melee.
Ridly Greig buries the empty-netter with a slapshot and Morgan Rielly takes exception 😳 pic.twitter.com/6NISK4AMSt— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 11, 2024
Rielly received a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct.
Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe defended his star blueliner while talking to the media after the game, briefly clarifying why he thought what Rielly did was acceptable.
“I thought it was appropriate,” Keefe said. “It’s pretty apparent.”
Rielly has never faced any supplemental discipline in his career.
The NHL DoPS had to deal with a similar situation earlier this season. Back in December, Detroit Red Wings forward David Perron was suspended six games for cross-checking Senators’ defenseman Artem Zub in the head. It was a retaliatory action to when Perron saw Dylan Larkin knocked down on the ice, though Larkin was hit by someone else. Perron had not been previously suspended.
Rielly had been playing well over the last few weeks, posting eight assists over the last seven games. In 50 games this season, the former fifth overall pick has scored seven goals and 36 assists. In his 769-game NHL career, Rielly has posted 80 goals and 377 assists, including registering 37 points in 50 playoff games.
The Leafs are already going to be without Mark Giordano for the next couple of games due to a lower-body injury. Though they have veterans like TJ Brodie and Jake McCabe, Toronto already has holes on the blueline, and will have even more issues with Rielly out of the lineup.
As of Sunday, the Leafs (26-26-8) are fourth in the Atlantic Division, one point back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for third. They do hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.