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Nylander's status in doubt as gamesmanship starts early for Leafs and Bruins


The Maple Leafs and Bruins practised at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston on Friday. 

William Nylander missed Friday's practice and the Leafs aren't offering many details on his status. 

"We kept him off the ice today," said tightlipped coach Sheldon Keefe. "[General manager Brad Treliving] has made it pretty clear to me that there will not be daily injury updates or anything like that." 

The star winger played in every regular season game, including Wednesday's finale in Tampa. He finished that game and was requested by the media afterwards, but was not available. 

Nylander posted a career-high 98 points this season, which was second on the team behind only Auston Matthews. He plays on the top power play unit and also logs time on the penalty kill. 

"It's tough to replace Willy," said winger Calle Jarnkrok. "I don't even know what's going on with him. Hopefully he can play, but I guess we'll have to wait and see tomorrow."

Nylander has been Toronto's most productive playoff performer in the last four years with 14 goals in 30 games. Matthews is second in that stretch with 12. 

Left winger Bobby McMann missed the last two games with a lower-body injury and was also absent from practice. 

"Both are possibilities for tomorrow," Keefe insisted. 

McMann hasn't been seen on the ice since getting hurt last Saturday in a game against the Detroit Red Wings

ContentId(1.2106889): Keefe refuses to reveal why Nylander missed Leafs practice


The Bruins are also playing things close to the vest. Head coach Jim Montgomery is refusing to reveal his Game 1 starter. 

"We have decided, but we're not sharing it with you guys," said Montgomery. "We got two great goaltenders. Our entire group is comfortable with either one and performance is going to dictate a lot of how we move forward."

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark played better down the stretch going 6-3-0 with a .935 save percentage since March 9. Jeremy Swayman, who represented the team at the All-Star Game, went 4-4-0 with an .884 save percentage in that same stretch. 

Keefe said not knowing Boston's starter had "zero" impact on his team's preparation. 

"The preparation is about finding ways to get through their team to the goalie," Keefe said. "The goalie is an afterthought for us."

"I couldn't care less," said Jarnkrok. 

The Bruins swept all four games from the Leafs in the regular season. Swayman started three of those games, including the last two in March. 

Matthews has 11 goals in 10 games against Ullmark and two in five games against Swayman. 

ContentId(1.2106858): Leafs 'couldn't care less' that Bruins aren't revealing starter


"Did we reveal ours?" winger Max Domi shot back when the subject of Boston's starter secrecy was brought up. "Welcome to the playoffs."

While the Leafs haven't formally named a starter, it is widely believed Ilya Samsonov will be between the pipes on Saturday. He is 18-5-2 with a .904 save percentage since being recalled from the American Hockey League in January.  

Samsonov didn't play in the last two regular season games. 

"A little bit rest," he said. "A mental rest more. And, yeah, I feel good. You know, like everybody's so excited. It's [the] most interesting time in the year."

Samsonov allowed 11 goals in his last two starts of the regular season. 

"He is in a good place," Keefe assured. "Any time he has slipped up, he has bounced back. He has lots of experience."

Samsonov struggled to start the season and actually cleared waivers before bouncing back with a big second half. The 27-year-old goalie planned to check in with his mental health consultant prior to Game 1. 

"We'll get some plan," he said. "You know, like, we'll get some emotion up and down, yeah. We'll figure it out."

Understudy Joseph Woll is 4-6-0 with an .890 save percentage since returning from a high-ankle sprain on Feb. 29. 

ContentId(1.2106905): After 'mental rest' Samsonov ready to prove himself in playoffs


Domi missed the last two games of the regular season due to an undisclosed injury. 

"All good," he said. "Ready to go."

Domi declared himself "100 per cent" recovered. He was back on the top line with Matthews and Tyler Bertuzzi at practice. That bumped Mitch Marner to the second line with John Tavares and Matthew Knies

Keefe called it a "very easy" decision to start usual running mates Matthews and Marner on separate lines in the playoffs. 

"That decision was made weeks ago," the coach revealed. "I have liked what we have seen from that. I like the options it gives our guys and the rest of our lineup. It was quite easy."

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Matthews just picked up his third Rocket Richard Trophy by scoring 69 goals, which is the most in the NHL since Mario Lemieux hit that number in 1995-96. 

"Heading into the postseason, this is where we want to have our success and this is where we want to make sure that we're elevating our game," Matthews said. "And, individually, I want to take another step."

What does the next step look like for the game's best goal-scorer? 

"The sky is the limit," said Keefe. "He has shown that. He is playing well and feeling good. If anything, the fact that it is a quick turnaround into the playoffs should benefit someone like Auston. He has been in such a great groove and is feeling good."

Matthews was held without a goal in the last two games despite firing 17 shots on net. 

"He's ready to go," promised Domi. "He's lighting up today. He's such a big body. He's a big part of this team. He's hungry as everyone. We're a hungry group, so it's going to be fun."

After scoring five goals in the six-game win over Tampa Bay in the first round series last year, Matthews was held without a goal in the five-game loss to the Florida Panthers in the second round. 

"Obviously, it is a different time of the year," said Keefe. "He is going to be a focal point of the opposition."

The Bruins are planning to start the playoffs with their top two defencemen – Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm – together on the top pair.

"It's two elite defencemen," said Bruins blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk. "Their physicality in the defensive zone, they're able to create loose pucks and separate the best players from the puck and that's a hard thing to do in this league. It's rare that you get two guys of that calibre who are able to play together and figure it out, but they've done a great job. Offensively, they're able to join the rush and create there as well. It's a great luxury for us to have."

The Bruins plan to use physicality to unsettle Toronto's top forwards.  

"We're going to have to play on the body a little bit more and get through their arms," said Bruins defenceman Brandon Carlo. "It's not like you got to be killing them every shift but definitely let them know that your presence is there and, you know, don't let them be allowed to do the stick stuff in tight."

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Jarnkrok hasn't played since crashing into the boards and hurting his hand on March 14 in Philadelphia. 

"First game back, it's usually pretty tough to get back, you know, with the timing and everything," the 32-year-old admitted. "But if there's one time you want to do it, it's for these big games, for sure."

Jarnkrok scored 10 goals in 52 games this season. He plays on both special teams units. 

"Jarny does a lot of things for us," said Keefe. "He is very versatile and helps us in a lot of different ways. He gives us an additional right-handed shot as well. It is good to see him progressing toward a return."

Jarnkrok skated on the third line with fellow Swede Pontus Holmberg and Nick Robertson. 

Jarnkrok also took Nylander's spot on the top power-play unit. 


The Bruins have won seven straight games against the Leafs dating back to last season. 

"It's just a different animal, obviously, come postseason time," said Matthews. "Everything that happened in the regular season kinda just gets washed, because it's a completely new game and a new season in itself."

It's a similar sentiment on the Bruins side. 

"You start getting caught up in the past, whether it's good or bad, it's going to affect your play," captain Brad Marchand told reporters. 

Marchand has been a part of three previous playoff series wins against Toronto in 2013, 2018 and 2019. He has 21 points in 21 career playoff games against the Leafs. 

"When you start looking at the past, good or bad, it will have a negative impact on your future," he said. "So, you just gotta stay in the moment ... We definitely learned that last year."

Much has been made about Toronto's past playoff failures, but Boston is also dealing with some demons. Last year, they produced the best regular season in league history before blowing a 3-1 series lead and crashing out against the Panthers in the first round. 

"I think our players seem to be more in the moment this year," Montgomery said without elaborating. 

"Different group," said McAvoy. "Different expectations. Different regular season. A couple different things and definitely different than last year."

The Bruins, who lost Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement, have surpassed a lot of preseason expectations already. 

"A lot of people wrote us off before the season even began," Marchand pointed out. "We built something great this year and came together."

The Leafs are also built differently this year. Treliving signed gritty players like Domi, Bertuzzi and Ryan Reaves with the playoffs in mind. Toronto also added physical blueliners Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin via trade before the deadline.  

"Toronto's going to be an extremely tough matchup," Marchand said. "Obviously a ton of firepower and added some toughness at the deadline. [They're] playing a much harder, tougher brand of hockey."

The Leafs finished second in hits this season, which was one spot ahead of the Bruins. Toronto finished 23rd in hits last season. 

"They're more heavy," observed Bruins winger Pat Maroon, who faced the Leafs in the playoffs last season while in Tampa. "They have guys that can lean on you, guys that get on the forecheck, guys that hit. [They] can probably change the momentum of the game with a big hit or puck possession by wearing guys down. They got some heavy guys over there who can play a heavy game." 

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Lines at Friday's Leafs practice: 

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

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


Power play units at Friday's Leafs practice: 

Rielly, Marner, Tavares, Matthews, Jarnkrok 

McCabe, Domi, Liljegren, Robertson, Bertuzzi 

Lines at Friday's Bruins practice: 

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

Lindholm - McAvoy
Grzelcyk - Carlo
Shattenkirk - Peeke
Lohrei - Wotherspoon


Power play units at Friday's Bruins practice: 

Shattenkirk, Pastrnak, Zacha, Heinen, Maroon 

McAvoy, Geekie, Coyle, Marchand, DeBrusk