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Leafs star Matthews 'progressing' ahead of Game 7

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews - The Canadian Press
The Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins skated at TD Garden on Saturday ahead of tonight's Game 7

Auston Matthews skated again on Saturday morning. It was his fifth straight day on the ice and his first full session with teammates since being felled by an undisclosed injury. 

"He's been progressing," said coach Sheldon Keefe. "Last time we were in here I think he got about 10 minutes out on the ice [before Game 5 on Tuesday]. Today we got him about 15 so that's progress, but no determination on his status tonight."

The Leafs centre has missed the last two games. 

Later in his media session, Keefe made it seem unlikely Matthews will play in Game 7. 

"We'll see what the day brings," Keefe said. "As of right now, we've got all of our forwards that have been playing in the series preparing to play ... with Auston, obviously if he's available you're going to use him but, as of right now, you know, we're proceeding as we have been."

This is the first time Matthews has missed playoff games during his NHL career. The Rocket Richard Trophy winner's status has hung over the series even as the Leafs mounted a comeback from 3-1 down to force a Game 7 in Boston.  

"I'm sure it's very tough," said winger Mitch Marner. "Getting asked one thousand times a day how you're doing probably by a bunch of people is annoying, too. Obviously wants to be out there. He's a hell of a competitor. You see in every level that he's been at. So, he wants to be out there for sure. But we'll see."


What does Game 7 mean to Marner? 

"It's always fun," he said. "Obviously, we've been on the wrong side of it, but not thinking of that."

The Leafs are 0-4 in Game 7s since Marner broke into the league in the 2016-17 season and 0-5 in winner-take-all games. 

"We talk about just being in the here and now and that's what it is," Marner said. "We're excited about it. We're excited for the opportunity and we're excited for the challenge."

The Leafs are looking to channel the same desperate energy that helped them win consecutive 2-1 games to stay alive. 

"We've been in this type of mode here for the last couple games and that doesn't change for us tonight," said captain John Tavares. "More of the same and continuing to be better and elevate, doing whatever it takes."

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For the first time in four home games in the series, the Bruins held their morning skate at TD Garden.

"We want to change things up," said coach Jim Montgomery. "This is one of the things we changed up."

The team usually skates at their practice facility. 

"It's nothing crazy new to us, but I enjoy it," said defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I enjoy skating on our ice the morning of. You get a really good feel for the sights out there and the boards and you feel like you're already getting into game mode when you're here in the morning."

The Bruins, who are 2-5 at home in the playoffs the last two years, also skated at TD Garden the morning of their last regular season game against the Leafs in March 7. 

Montgomery declined to reveal the other things the team has changed up, but the coach did offer insight about what his team can do better on the ice. 

"Drawing more penalties and getting more odd-man rushes," Montgomery said. 

Boston only had one power play in each of the last two games. 

"We haven't been going to hard-enough areas consistently," Montgomery noted. "That's usually where you draw penalties." 

He said the penalty drawn in Game 6 – a net drive by John Beecher, which led to a tripping call on goalie Joseph Woll – is more of what he's looking for. 

Boston has converted on 40 per cent of its power play chances in the series. 

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The Leafs power play, meanwhile, is 1/20. 

"It's a little out of sorts," Marner admitted. "We've done a good job of entering their zone with it and from there it's about us making plays. Not always the prettiest of plays but just second opportunities, more pucks around the net. I think we did a better job of that last game. It's about sticking with it and knowing it will drop eventually."

Toronto's only power-play goal was scored by Tavares after the Leafs won a battle to regain possession along the boards in Game 2. 

"Just being direct and not trying to do too much," Tavares said of the needed mindset. "Very good penalty kill over there, not every play is going to be perfect or clean, and just the way you recover pucks, especially when you have the extra man, can go a long way to creating some open lanes, open looks, and just have to converge on the net."

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The Leafs did not run lines at the morning skate, which means any changes won't be clear until warm-up. Toronto did make one adjustment up front in Game 6 with Noah Gregor replacing veteran tough guy Ryan Reaves

"I just just felt that as the series goes on you can use a boost with some speed and energy and a rested player," Keefe explained. 

Gregor logged eight minutes and 21 seconds in his Stanley Cup playoff debut. It was his first game action since the regular season finale on April 17. 

"When you think about all the things that we're trying to accomplish in the series with how we want to play, it really fits his style of game very well with the speed that he has," Keefe noted. "We felt getting him involved in the series was important." 

Reaves, 37, sat as a healthy scratch for the first time in the series. Reaves leads the team with 39.64 hits per 60 minutes. 

"Reavo had done a tremendous job for us in the series and had played very well within his role and has been tremendous with his leadership as well," Keefe noted. "That was a tough call for us."

Despite not playing Reaves was standing in his usual spot outside the dressing room and pumping up his teammates as they walked to the ice ahead of periods on Thursday. 

"I like to be around the boys," Reaves said. "It's part of what I do is bring energy. You can't win with 20 guys. It's gotta be guys in and out of the lineup. You gotta stay ready, you gotta stay positive. If you can contribute in other ways then I'm going to do that. I'm an energy guy so if I can bring energy in between periods then that's my contribution for the day."

After the overtime win in Game 5, Reaves addressed his teammates and urged them to keep the pressure on Boston. 

"We planted that seed," he declared in the dressing room. "Let's go back home and water that."

What's the state of the seed going into Game 7? 

"Seed's growing," Reaves said with a smile. "We gotta get a couple flowers on that thing tonight."


Bobby McMann is on the trip and joined his teammates for the skate on Saturday. The Leafs winger has been out since suffering a lower body injury on April 13. 

"He's progressing really well," said Keefe. "Skated hard yesterday, so that allowed him to come on the trip and be a part of the group here today. So he's worked hard and doesn't look too far off."

The winner of the Leafs-Bruins series will play Game 1 of the second round in Florida on Monday.