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Bruins plan to make things uncomfortable for well-rested Nylander

Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander William Nylander - The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs (optional) and Boston Bruins skated at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday. 

William Nylander is set to make his series debut on Saturday night. 

"We are preparing for Willy to play at this point," coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed following the team's optional skate.

The Leafs have scored just six goals in three playoff games against the Bruins and are understandably eager to get the 98-point, 40-goal winger back in the lineup. 

"It'd be huge," said defenceman Jake McCabe. "Any time you get one of the top players in the league back in your lineup, it's obviously a pretty positive thing and does a lot for us. He can change a game at the snap of a finger. He kills penalties for us, big for our power play, so in a lot of facets Willy's important to our group."

Toronto is down two games to one to the Bruins. The power play is just 1/11 in the series. The penalty kill is 5/10. 

"Him being out was tough," said winger Nick Robertson. "I think we've played well and I think we can play even better with him in the lineup. He's well-rested too. He's probably ready to go and I think he'll be great for us." 

After suiting up in every regular season game, Nylander was sidelined with an undisclosed issue prior to the playoffs. The 27-year-old declined to reveal what's been ailing him during a media session on Thursday. 

"He's someone that you definitely worry about and have to plan for," said Bruins defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk. "Even when you're playing Game 1 when you're healthy, the speed ramps up, the intensity ramps up, so we just have to make it as uncomfortable as possible for him."

Nylander hasn't suited up since April 17.

"We just got to play him hard," said Bruins defenceman Parker Wotherspoon, who made his Stanley Cup playoff debut in Game 3. "We know he's coming off an injury or whatever it is so we just got to get in his face a bit."

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Nylander will slot in on the third line beside Pontus Holmberg and Calle Jarnkrok. Robertson will move to the fourth line with David Kampf and Ryan Reaves. Trade-deadline acquisition Connor Dewar will be a healthy scratch. 

"There is a reason why [Robertson] is remaining in the lineup," said Keefe. "We think he can provide us with offence. Offence is hard to come by, and goals are hard to come by. I think he has done a good job in this series. It is not just that he has proven he can score over his hockey-playing life or in the regular season, he has done a good job in the series. He has found ways to create chances in low minutes. We think he can make a difference that way."

Robertson has not gotten on the scoresheet in the series, but is third on the team with eight shots in 5-on-5 play behind only Auston Matthews and Max Domi. He's averaging nine minutes and 14 seconds of ice time, which is more than only Reaves. 

How's he handling the close calls? 

"I'm alright," Robertson said. "If the team got the win, I wouldn't care so much about the chances, but those chances could change a game, could make a difference so hopefully one will go in soon. I'm also just happy the way I've been playing, the way the chances have been coming."

Robertson is the only Leafs forward, who has not been on the ice for a goal against in the series. 

Robertson had a meeting with Reaves and Kampf before the morning skate to go over the plan for the line. 

"They play a lot of a north, physical game, and I think I can add my touch in the O-zone and with possession," Robertson said. "Stick to their process without the puck and being a little more physical and hard on pucks."

"Nick has to find his place on that line," acknowledged Keefe. "We need Kampf and Reavo to keep doing what they have been doing and be themselves. I need Nick to be himself."

Keefe called it a "tough decision" to sit Dewar. 

"Dewar has done a tremendous job," the coach said. "You want that line to keep doing what they've been doing. It's really important that Nick finds his way on it. Maybe the line can be even better."


The Leafs are also planning a change on defence. T.J. Brodie replaces Timothy Liljegren beside Joel Edmundson on the third pair. 

"We have liked our D pairs," said Keefe. "I haven't liked that pair as much. That pair hasn't played to the level of the others. That is part of it."

Liljegren and Edmundson have been on the ice for three goals against in 5-on-5 play, which leads the team. 

Liljegren has not produced a point or even a shot in the series. 

"The other part is that Lily is not 100 per cent healthy, either," Keefe revealed. "There are other things that add up. Brodie is a player who is healthy, rested, and has a ton of experience. If you look at all of those things combined, it makes sense to make a change."

Brodie, like Nylander, has not played since the regular season finale. 

Brodie led the Leafs in shorthanded ice time during the regular season and can help stabilize a unit that has been torched so far in the series. 

"The guys have to be confident and assertive," said Keefe. "What's happened in the past in the series is irrelevant now. We need to be better from here on ... We need to make one fewer mistake here and there. Brodie can hopefully come in and help us with that."

The Leafs held their first full practice since the series began on Friday, which allowed assistant coach Dean Chynoweth to run through some extra reps with the penalty kill units.  

"You can do all the video you want, but just to get on the ice and just run through it definitely helps clear the mind and settle everybody down," said Edmundson. "Tonight we just got to be confident in the PK and limit their chances."

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The Bruins have not confirmed who will start Game 4. 

"I have no idea," said Robertson. "I mean, I assume Swayman."

That appears to be a safe assumption. Swayman was the first goalie off the ice at the Bruins skate and is projected to start consecutive games for the first time since February. 

Swayman has won six straight games against the Leafs. Linus Ullmark, meanwhile, took the loss in Game 2. 

"I don't think it makes a big difference, to be honest," Robertson said. "We had a pre-scout with our goalie coach before the series. They kind of play a little similar, but in playoff hockey it's less clear shots and more just causing chaos and that's what we're trying to do." 

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After playing through an illness in Game 3 and missing practice on Friday, Matthews was back on the ice at the morning skate. 

Matthews dominated Game 2, but was held off the board in Game 1 and Game 3. The Bruins are getting the pair of Hampus Lindholm (6-foot-4) and Brandon Carlo (6-foot-5) out against Matthews as much as possible. 

"Last game was their best game," said Montgomery. "But even when they have a 'C' game they're really hard to beat just because of their length. Their defensive hockey sense is high end and their sticks are high end defensively. What I've liked is how they've taken away time and space and crunched a lot of minutes for us." 

David Pastrnak has been limited to two shots in 5-on-5 play in the series, but coach Jim Montgomery liked how he looked on Wednesday. 

"I thought he could've had a hat trick in the first period," the Bruins bench boss noted. "He didn't hit his spots. He's going to hit his spots."

Pastrnak has not spoken to the media since after Game 2 in Boston, but Montgomery doesn't sense any frustration from the 47-goal winger. 

"His confidence in our 1-on-1 meetings gives me confidence," he said with a laugh. 

Montgomery recalled a conversation he had with Pastrnak before Game 6 of the series against the Florida Panthers last year. 

"I grabbed him and said, 'I want to talk.' He goes, 'I want to talk to you.' He goes, 'I'm going to be good tonight,' and he had a big smile on his face. I don't know if you remember Game 6 but he was pretty special that game."

Pastrnak scored two goals and fired seven shots on net in Game 6. He also scored while firing nine shots on net in Game 7. However, the Bruins lost both games. 

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Brad Marchand was the offensive star for the Bruins in Game 4. The pesky winger scored twice and picked up an assist with all the points coming in the third period. Marchand also engaged Tyler Bertuzzi in a wrestling match in the neutral zone before Trent Frederic flew down the wing and scored in the second period. 

"He's a sneaky guy," said Edmundson. "He knows exactly what he's doing and he's been doing it for years so you just got to be careful."

The Leafs stressed discipline at a morning meeting. 

"Sheldon talked about it this morning and we know it in the dressing room," Edmundson said. "After the whistle we don't need to take any dumb penalties. They got some good guys over there that will suck you in, so we just have to be smart in that aspect."

Marchand has drawn two penalties in the series.  

"Me, personally, I just continue to try to play him hard every shift and take away his time and space and try to frustrate him and limit his offensive scoring chances," said McCabe.

Marchand has not taken a penalty in the series. He seems to have a running feud going with ex-teammate Bertuzzi, who has ended up in the box in all three games. 

"Bert just has to keep playing," advised Keefe. "Bert knows how to play. He is a competitor. Both guys are competitors. There is a lot of stuff happening inside of the series. Just play. Don't get distracted. Just compete and play."

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Ilya Lyubushkin travelled home to California on Thursday morning and made it back in time to witness the birth of his first daughter. 

"Really busy, but it's good part of my life," the 30-year-old defenceman said. "I'm so happy."

Lyubushkin had not been home since being traded by the Anaheim Ducks in February. 

"So, so happy," he said. "Actually my two boys was crazy. They super excited."

Lyubushkin's sons are six and eight and have been glued to all the playoff games. 

"They push me," Lyubushkin said with a smile. "Like, 'Daddy, let's go! Let's go, Daddy! We need it.'"

Lyubushkin estimates he spent 30 hours at home before boarding a flight back to Toronto and landing around 5 pm on Friday. The Leafs did their part to make the commute as easy as possible. 

"We have best organization and they take care of me," Lyubushkin said. 

Private jet? 

"Tough to say," Lyubushkin grinned. 

Lyubushkin isn't feeling jet lagged. After holding baby girl Stephania for the first time, he's energized. 

"When it's happen you feel different energy," he said. "It's good emotion. It's good emotion for you and for family."

"He's probably a little bit tired," said Edmundson. "But coming in this morning, doesn't seem like he travelled at all." 

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Projected Leafs lineup for Game 4: 

Bertuzzi - Matthews - Domi 
Knies - Tavares - Marner 
Nylander - Holmberg - Jarnkrok 
Robertson - Kampf - Reaves

Rielly - Liljegren 
Benoit - McCabe 
Edmundson - Brodie 

Samsonov starts 

Projected Bruins lineup for Game 4: 

Marchand - Coyle - Geekie
DeBrusk - Zacha - Pastrnak
van Riemsdyk - Frederic - Heinen
Beecher - Boqvist - Maroon

Lohrei - McAvoy
Lindholm - Carlo
Wotherspoon - Shattenkirk

Swayman starts