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Matthews appears doubtful as Leafs face elimination


The Maple Leafs held an optional skate at TD Garden in Boston on Tuesday. 


Auston Matthews skated briefly on Tuesday morning. The Leafs centre did a couple drills with assistant coach Manny Malhotra and departed before the main workout began.

Matthews was on the ice for only a few minutes.  

"He's working through things to try to make himself available to play," head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "No determination at this time." 

Keefe confirmed that the team's medical staff will make the final call on whether Matthews, who has been dealing with an illness, is available to play in Game 5. 

"At this stage it does not look too likely we're going to see Auston Matthews suit up," said TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston. "The sense at this point is what was initially an illness may now include an injury of some type."

Keefe refused to answer when asked whether Matthews is dealing with something beyond an illness.

"I've already answered too many questions on the situation," he said.

Matthews was pulled from Game 4 by team doctors after the second period. He missed Friday's practice and the Leafs prepared as if Matthews would be unavailable. How are the Bruins preparing? 

"We have a Matthews-is-going-to-play plan," coach Jim Montgomery told reporters. 

"We have to play the same way," said Bruins centre Pavel Zacha. "We beat them there when he was playing and that should be our focus if he's in the lineup or not."  

The Leafs are 1-0 without Matthews this season. Toronto beat up on the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-0 on Dec. 16 when Matthews was out sick. 

"Throughout the rest of the series different guys have to step up at different key points," said defenceman Jake McCabe. "Looking forward to see who steps up tonight." 

Matthews is tied for the team lead with three points in the playoffs. All those points came in Game 2, which is Toronto's only win in the series. 


ContentId(1.2113488): Johnston: Sense is Matthews also dealing with injury, doubtful for Game 5


Joseph Woll did not take part in the morning skate, which suggests he will start Game 5.

"For a young guy he’s pretty steady," said veteran forward Ryan Reaves. "I’m excited to see him play. I think he’s excited to get in there and do his thing. We’re a confident bunch when he’s in the net."

Woll, 25, faced a similar situation last year when he made his first career Stanley Cup playoff start in Game 4 against the Panthers with the Leafs facing elimination on the road in Florida.  

"He got thrown into the fire last year and responded great," McCabe recalled. "He’s super cool, calm and collected back there."

It will be Woll's first start since April 16, which was the penultimate game of the regular season. 

"He has stayed with his regular routines," Keefe said. "He is a very regimented guy. He is very detailed in handling and taking care of himself. He maximizes his practice reps. He has been outstanding in the practices we’ve had since preparing for the playoffs. He has really looked at those as his games. To me, he has been really, really good there. He is ready for an opportunity to come in."


ContentId(1.2113483): Leafs turn to Woll in Game 5, have full confidence in the goalie with season on the line


The Bruins blew a 3-1 lead in the first round last year against the Panthers. 

"It's definitely been brought up," said McCabe. "Trying to put pressure on their group over there. Obviously, they're sitting comfy at 3-1 and we want to put pressure on that, and it starts with a win tonight."

"Until the series is over, it's not over," said Reaves, who has suited up in more playoff games than anyone on the Leafs roster. "This team gave up a lead last year, exact same 3-1 lead last year, so sports is a crazy thing. We've all seen some crazy comebacks in our lives, and I've been a part of a few."

Montgomery is stressing the start with his group. 

"The TD Garden will be rocking," he said. "I want us rocking right from the start."

Brad Marchand is urging his teammates to stay in the moment. 

"It has no bearing on our group," the Bruins captain said when asked about last year's collapse. "We have a different group. A lot of new guys. Different team. It's a completely different season. Nothing about that has anything to do with the series."


ContentId(1.2113484): 'Until the series is over, it's not over': Leafs on Bruins blowing 3-1 series lead last year


McCabe described his team as being "very focused" as they prepare to face elimination for the first time. 

"Last time we were in this building we won a game, and keep that momentum going here tonight," McCabe said. "After Game 1, we had a good response in Game 2. We didn’t quite have the response in Game 4, but we’re expecting it tonight." 

Keefe raised eyebrows by defending his team's effort in Game 4, but Morgan Rielly highlighted elevated work ethic as a key ahead of Game 5. 

"You’re fighting for your season," the longest-serving Leaf said. "There’s definitely more on the line, so the expectations of work ethic and execution go up."

It's looking like an uphill battle for the Leafs. Where does the confidence come from at a time like this? 

"We know the parts of our game that we have to improve on and the challenge we’re facing," said Rielly. "But you gotta believe in one another."

"There is still tremendous belief amongst the group," said Keefe. "We also know what the challenge is. That is why you try to focus on tonight and preparing for tonight. You go out and give everything you have to earn another game on the schedule."

One area in need of improvement is the power play, which is 1-for-14 in the series. 

"We got to get one," Rielly said. "When that time comes and our group gets a chance to change momentum in the game, we obviously need to be ready. Our game plan is solid. Our structure is solid. It’s about execution."

Boston's penalty kill isn't making it easy. 

"Very organized team," said defenceman Timothy Liljegren, who's part of the second power-play unit. "They put a lot of pressure [on you]. You don’t have a lot of time with the puck so just got to move the puck quicker, get shots on net, win battles, get pucks back and shoot again."  


ContentId(1.2113479): 'There's still tremendous belief': Leafs excited, optimistic heading into must-win Game 5


The Leafs will make one change on defence with Liljegren coming in for T.J. Brodie

Keefe previously said Liljegren wasn't 100 per cent, but the blueliner indicated he's been feeling fine physically in the series. 

"I feel good," he said. 

Liljegren described his performance in the first three games as "Okay." His reaction to being benched for Game 4? 

"I was a little bit surprised but, I mean, it is what it is," Liljegren said. "New game today and that’s what we’re focusing on."


ContentId(1.2113502): All In: Bruins plan for Matthews; Liljegren back in for Leafs


Projected Leafs lineup for Game 5: 

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

Rielly - Lyubushkin 
Benoit - McCabe 
Edmundson - Liljegren 

Woll starts