Maple Leafs' Liljegren makes NHL debut vs. Blackhawks

Mike Stephens
NHL analyst

The day has finally come, my friends.

After countless call ups and demotions that served as nothing but a glorified all-access pass to the Leafs’ facilities, Timothy Liljegren will now officially be taking part in his first NHL game, as Sheldon Keefe opts to go with seven defencemen and 11 forwards ahead of his team’s final game before the upcoming bye week.

Thus brings to an end to a long and winding saga.

Liljegren has yet to be given a definitive defence partner for tonight’s matchup, but one can imagine him spending the bulk of his minutes alongside fellow Swedish rookie, Rasmus Sandin. It’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, really.

Sandin and Liljegren demonstrated tremendous chemistry together during their time on the Toronto Marlies last season, serving as the AHL affiliate’s top pair and shutting down opposing top lines on a nightly basis.

That pairing continued untouched on into this current season before Sandin left for the World Junior Championship in December, and, ultimately, his own call up with the Leafs.

In the seven games Liljegren spent without Sandin during that former stretch, the 2017 first-round pick racked up an impressive nine points and only further established himself as a key organizational piece.

Now, Liljegren will get the chance to prove it — and on Hockey Night in Canada, no less. No pressure, kid.

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