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Marner stays the course amid quiet start to playoffs

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner - The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins skated at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday. 


Mitch Marner is staying the course amid a quiet start to the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

"We're trying to be responsible," the Leafs winger said when asked how his line can breakthrough offensively. "Obviously, we're matched up with a very good line on the other side that can really make you pay if you give them odd-man rushes or chances."

Marner has been held without a point in the two games against the Bruins so far. His line with John Tavares and Matthew Knies has been matched up against David Pastrnak, Pavel Zacha and Danton Heinen

"Trying to find that medium of playing more O-zone, more cycles, trying to get pucks around the net, but at the same time making sure we're doing it in a safe way," Marner said. 

Pastrnak, who led the Bruins with 47 goals in the regular season, has scored once in the series. 

"Mitch is our most reliable and consistent defensive player," coach Sheldon Keefe said. "He will continue to be that. He will make plays when they are available."

Keefe pointed out that Marner would have had a power-play assist, but a Tyler Bertuzzi goal was called back because the Leafs winger hit the puck with a high stick. 

"Mitch has come through for us offensively in so many ways in the past and found ways to produce," Keefe said. "He will do it again."

Marner didn't seem frustrated while holding court with a big media contingent on Wednesday morning. 

"You always know you're going to get a lot more cameras in here when playoffs come around and you can see it," he said. "It's about doing the same thing you've done all year and trusting your team and yourself."


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William Nylander skated again on Wednesday and even took some reps beside Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Holmberg on the third line. 

"He looked great," Jarnkrok said. 

But Nylander stayed out late with the projected healthy scratches and it doesn't look like he'll play in Game 3. 

"There is a chance," Keefe said. "It depends on how he responds. We'll take it from there."

Nylander is dealing with an undisclosed injury, which popped up after he played in all 82 regular-season games. 

"He's keeping his head up," said Jarnkrok. "He's doing fine."

What impact does Nylander's status have on Boston's game plan? 

"I would say I'm hoping he's not playing again tonight," coach Jim Montgomery said to laughs. 


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In a rare move, Auston Matthews skipped the Leafs morning skate. 

"We just decided to keep him off," said Keefe. "He took the option. He is good to go tonight."

Matthews played a team-high 23 minutes and 24 seconds on Monday and tied for the game high with six hits. 


With the series shifting north, Keefe will own the last-change advantage. 

"They really focused on Auston and his line with how they utilized their defence," he noted. "We will be able to manage that a little bit better at home and make it a little more difficult for them."

The Leafs went 1-5 at home in the playoffs last season and Keefe is wary of changing too much.  

"That [Matthews] line has been doing really well," he said. "We have to manage the matchups accordingly so that we are not chasing one to get something favourable over here while exposing ourselves on the other side of it — especially with the way we have been playing without different people."

Montgomery looked to get the pair of Brandon Carlo and Hampus Lindholm out against the Matthews line as much as possible in Boston. 

"We're deep on defence," the Bruins coach assured. "We got four guys. We should be able to get two of those four out there."

Although Boston's depth took a hit on Monday with Andrew Peeke getting hurt in Game 2. Mason Lohrei was called up and the 23-year-old will make his Stanley Cup playoff debut on Wednesday. Lohrei skated beside Charlie McAvoy at the morning skate. 

That's not the only change the Bruins are planning on defence. Matt Grzelcyk is projected to be a healthy scratch on Wednesday after playing in the first two games of the series. Parker Wotherspoon will draw in and partnered with Kevin Shattenkirk at the morning skate. 


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Bruins winger Brad Marchand has drawn a pair of penalties in the series. Max Domi slashed his wrist away from the play in Game 1. Bertuzzi hacked the back of his leg after a whistle in Game 2. 

"You just have to be smart," Keefe advised. "You have to recognize the moment and the player or players you are playing against. They are very good at making it very clear there has been an infraction. We have to manage that for sure."

Montgomery believes his team is doing a good job of drawing penalties. How? 

"Going to hard areas," he said. "Initiating, not retaliating."


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James van Riemsdyk is set to draw in and make his series debut. 

"You got to stay true to who you are as a player," the ex-Leaf said. "Always play with good details and manage the game well and play to your strengths as a player. This time of year, being around the net is always an important trait ... that's an area I pride myself on, so I'll do my best to get there and have an impact." 

The big winger is mired in a 20-game goal drought dating back to Feb. 17. He took reps as the net-front presence on the second power-play unit at the morning skate. 

Jakub Lauko projects to be a healthy scratch. 

Montgomery is looking for more offence. 

"In general, we're not creating enough," he said. "We're not attacking inside the dots. Like, we need to be better offensively as an entire group." 


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Lines at Wednesday's Leafs skate: 

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

*Placeholder for Matthews 

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

Samsonov starts