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'That's personal': Nylander eager to get back to business

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander - The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs practised at Ford Performance Centre on Friday.  The Boston Bruins practised at Scotiabank Arena. 

William Nylander practised on a regular line and on the top power-play unit on Friday. Afterwards, he spoke to the media for the first time since the playoffs began and was asked what has kept him out of the series against the Bruins.

"Look, that's just personal so I'm not going to get into that," the winger said. "But anything else you guys want to discuss."

It's been tough for Nylander to see his team fall behind two games to one in the series against Boston. 

"The games are crazy to watch from home," the 27-year-old said. "I've never been so nervous in my life, but I think the guys are doing a great job and tomorrow's a big game."

Will he play? 

"I don't know," he said. "We'll see."

"Looked great to me on the ice," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "In terms of his status, we'll have to determine that tomorrow ... Getting him back would be important. But obviously getting him to full health and making sure he's ready to step into a series of this caliber and this time of year and all that kind of stuff, that would be the next step."

Nylander played in all 82 regular season games. In fact, he's only missed one game in the last three seasons. So, this is an unusual situation for a number of reasons. 

"Nothing," Nylander said flatly when asked about the biggest challenge jumping back in at this time of year. 

Nylander pointed out he's been on the ice throughout the series. He took part in the team's morning skate before Game 2 and Game 3. 

"I've been skating and everything," he stressed. "I'm fine."

Nylander racked up a career high 98 points in the regular season, which was second on the team. He matched his career high with 40 goals and was invited to his first All-Star Game. Nylander leads the Leafs with 14 playoff goals since 2020. 

"We happy to see him with us on the ice," said goalie Ilya Samsonov with a smile. "He gets ready for next game, I think. I hope so. It's huge for us." 

Nylander slotted in on an all-Swedish line at practice with Pontus Holmberg and Calle Jarnkrok

"We had a great connection today," he said. "So, hopefully build off of that."

Nylander and Jarnkrok were on the ice early to get in some extra work together. 

Nick Robertson moved to the fourth line with David Kampf and Ryan Reaves. Connor Dewar projects to be a healthy scratch if Nylander returns to the lineup. 

Nylander led the Leafs with 35 power-play points in the regular season and the top unit could sure use a spark. Toronto is just 1/11 in the series. 

"We've actually had a lot of chances to score," he said. "They've been doing a good job. Their goalies have been playing well so, I mean, we got to try to create some more rebounds. 'Get pucks to the net,' is an easy thing to say, but I think it will work too." 

Nylander produced just four assists in the final 11 games of the regular season. He hasn't scored since March 26. 

ContentId(1.2111493): Nylander on injury absence: 'That's personal'; unsure about Game 4 status


The last time the Leafs beat Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman – April 29, 2022 – Nylander scored two goals. 

"He's obviously a great goalie," Nylander said. "They have two great goalies. You're going to play great goalies in the playoffs, so you just got to figure out a way to get it by him."

Swayman has won six straight against the Leafs, including two in this series, but the Bruins have not yet named their starter for Saturday.  

"We're following the plan that we had set in place," is all Bruins coach Jim Montgomery would say on Friday. 

Boston has rotated between Swayman and Linus Ullmark in 29 straight games dating back to February. 

Samsonov isn't worried about what's happening at the other end. He was asked about Swayman's success after Friday's practice. 

"I don't think about him," Samsonov said. "We play against Boston full team, yeah. It's not about me and him. He's doing his work, I'm doing my work."

Swayman's work was a little better on Wednesday. Samsonov allowed an unscreened, long-range shot from Trent Frederic to beat him in the second period, which tied the game.  

"I need to stop the puck, for sure," he admitted. "Probably this my mistake. I'll prepare better. I watch some video with [goalie coach] Curtis [Sanford] today and we talk about this a little bit. It's in the past right now. I need to prepare for next moment."

After playing three games in five nights with travel, Samsonov appreciated the two-day break before Game 4. 

"It helps, especially for goalies," he said. "A little bit rest for your mind, yeah. I stayed with my family all day last day. It's huge if you have time in the playoffs, see your family and play with your baby. It's good. It's good for me."

ContentId(1.2111599): Samsonov not worried about Swayman: 'It’s not about me and him'


After playing through an illness in Game 3, Auston Matthews missed Friday's practice. 

"Things are okay," Keefe said. "He needed another day today to help restore his energy, recharge, and all of those kinds of things. We will see where he is at tomorrow."

After a three-point performance in Game 2, the 69-goal centre was held off the scoresheet on Wednesday. 

"I just know Auston will give us everything he has," Keefe said. "I would say the same about his game the other night. To me, he played extremely hard and had a couple of chances that could've fallen his way and didn't. The one off the post comes to mind."

Matthews is averaging 22 minutes and 31 seconds of ice time per game in the playoffs, which is third among all forwards behind only Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (23:35) and Florida's Sam Reinhart (22:57). 

Matthews finished with three shots on net on Wednesday and landed eight hits, which tied Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy for the game high.  

"He played really hard," Keefe said. "It might've been his most physical game of the series. He felt he didn't have it in other ways, so he was trying to impact the game in different spots."

Entering Friday's games, Matthews sat second overall in hits in the playoffs behind only Reaves. 

ContentId(1.2111610): Matthews misses Leafs practice; Keefe: 'Going to give us everything he has'


Ilya Lyubushkin, who was acquired in a trade from Anaheim in February, missed Leafs practice on Friday because he was travelling back from California where he went to be with his family following the birth of his third child and first daughter. The 30-year-old defenceman is expected to be available for Game 4. 

"We will first make sure he gets back and see how he feels tomorrow," said Keefe. "We will make a determination from there. It is kind of a tough couple of days, but it is exciting at the same time. From his perspective, it has been on his mind while his family has been away. They've welcomed a new addition and had it go smoothly, considering this gap in the schedule. We will have to get him back and make sure he is ready to go."

Lyubushkin is the only Leafs defenceman who has not been on the ice for a goal against in the series. 

"I'm so happy for him," said Samsonov. "He called me right after baby born. It's huge. I'm so happy for him, and everybody is waiting for him in the room."

Samsonov smiled.  

"Maybe we get a couple stories." 

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It appears the Leafs are planning to make a change on the blue line for Game 4. T.J. Brodie, who sat out the first three games, skated beside Joel Edmundson on the third pair at practice. 

"He played so much in the regular season and has so much experience in the league and in the playoffs," said Keefe. "It is important that he keeps his mindset right, but it is tough for a guy like him who is used to playing every day."

Brodie played 78 games in the regular season and averaged the second most ice time on the team behind only Morgan Rielly

Timothy Liljegren projects to be a healthy scratch after practising in Lyubushkin's usual spot beside Rielly. Liljegren was on the ice and lost a puck battle before Brad Marchand scored the game-winning goal in the third period in Game 3. 

Liljegren, who had been playing on the second power-play unit, did not take reps with that group at practice. 

Brodie led the Leafs in shorthanded ice time in the regular season. Boston is converting on 50 per cent of its power-play chances in the series. 

Assistant coach Dean Chynoweth, who oversees the penalty kill, brought the units together for some extra work at the end of practice. Brodie was paired with Simon Benoit.  

"You take every rep you can especially to dial in some details and we did that today," said Benoit. "I'm glad we did." 

What's the biggest adjustment they are looking for? 

"That's going to stay in our meetings," said Benoit. "Yes, we got to be better, but it stays in that room."

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The Bruins expressed displeasure with Leafs winger Max Domi for bumping into Swayman during a television timeout in Game 3. 

"I bumped him? First I've heard of it," Domi told Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun. "I think we ran into each other, but it's open for interpretation, I guess."

Domi noted that he always goes for a skate like that during the media breaks. 

Montgomery suggested the collision may be a sign that Swayman is in the head of the Leafs. 

"I couldn't care less what [the Bruins] say," Domi told Hornby. 

Pat Maroon appeared to be the Bruin most upset by what happened. 

"I'm not going to talk on it," the veteran winger told reporters on Friday. 

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Marchand, again, heaped praise on the Leafs following Friday's practice. 

"I said this before, but they're not the same team," the Bruins captain told reporters. "They're extremely tough to play out there. It's not a fun game by any means and we're going to have to continue to elevate. They have the ability to do that. They have enough superstars and guys that can take over games that we know they're going to be better and continue to improve, and we have to do the same."

The Leafs and Bruins are tied 5-5 in 5-on-5 play in the series. Toronto has an edge in shots (73-60) and high-danger chances (30-19), per 

"We need more O-zone time," said Maroon. "We need to create more offence, get more shot volume to the goalie. They've done a really good job, actually, of throwing pucks to the net, rolling up and throwing pucks in their feet."

Tyler Bertuzzi scored when a Rielly shot deflected off him and Hampus Lindholm in the third period on Wednesday. 

Maroon also noted it was important that Boston's forwards get the team's defencemen involved in the attack. 

"I don't think our transition to defence, transition to offence is as fluid as we would like it," Montgomery said. 

David Pastrnak, who led the Bruins with 47 goals in the regular season, has just two shots in 5-on-5 play in the series. 

"I thought in the first period Pastrnak could have had two, three goals," Montgomery pointed out. "One hit their defenceman [Edmundson] that was going in, one he puts over the crossbar. He's getting his looks."

But he could get more.  

"That line, you know, the more O-zone time they can get, the better it's going to be for us," Montgomery said. 

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Lines at Friday's Leafs practice: 

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

Rielly - Liljegren 
Benoit - McCabe 
Edmundson - Brodie 
Giordano - Timmins 


Power play units at Friday's Leafs practice: 

Rielly, Nylander, Tavares, Gregor*, Marner

McCabe, Robertson, Jarnkrok, Domi, Bertuzzi  

Penalty kill units at Friday's Leafs practice: 

Kampf, Marner, Benoit, Brodie

Holmberg, Jarnkrok, McCabe, Edmundson 

*Placeholder for Matthews