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Leafs prepared to go without Nylander in series opener against Bruins


William Nylander missed Friday's practice and didn't take part in the optional skate on Saturday morning. It's looking more and more like the star winger will miss Game 1 against the Boston Bruins

Sheldon Keefe was asked what he could tell the media about Nylander's status. 

"Nothing," the coach said. 

General manager Brad Treliving instructed Keefe not to give out any injury updates in the playoffs, and the coach is sticking to the script. 

Nylander's teammates, however, were more forthcoming. 

"Obviously tough for him, but hopefully he won't miss too much," said defenceman Timothy Liljegren. "Hard to replace Willy, obviously, but we got guys stepping up [throughout the year] when guys go down, so it will be no different this time."

Nylander is the only Leafs player who dressed in all 82 games this season. The 27-year-old finished Wednesday's regular season finale in Tampa without any apparent issues.  

"He woke up on Thursday morning in some discomfort, feeling stiff," said TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston. "It really does not look likely that he's going to be in. If there's one silver lining, it does sound as though, if he does miss time, it's not expected to be a long-term absence."


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Ilya Samsonov was the first goalie off the ice at the Leafs skate and is set to start Game 1. 

Who will be in net for the Bruins? 

"One of the guys wearing pads," quipped coach Jim Montgomery during his news conference. 

So, the Leafs still don't know whether they'll be shooting on Linus Ullmark or Jeremy Swayman on Saturday night. 

"You look at both guys and try to get a sense of that," said captain John Tavares, who ended the regular season on a four-game goal streak.

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The injury to Nylander appears to have opened the door for Nick Robertson to get in the lineup. The winger made his NHL debut during the bubble playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets four years ago. He scored one goal in four games. 

"It was very quiet," the 22-year-old recalled. "Obviously this is different. This is more what playoffs are really about."

What's the chance mean to him? 

"It's everything," he said. "This is one of the things you see when you're a kid and you want to play in these environments, and to be with the Leafs and play Boston first game, nothing better than that."

Robertson produced 14 goals and 13 assists while playing a career high 56 games with the Leafs this year. 

"He has had a terrific season," said Keefe. "He has taken a significant step in his own development and in his own career. He has done a good job for us. Whenever his name is called, be ready. That is exactly what he has done for us. I am proud of Nick and how he has handled himself throughout the season."

Robertson is a "big napper" and doesn't foresee having any issues getting some shuteye this afternoon despite all the excitement. 

"I'll find a way to get a nap in today," he said. 


"Just preparing for the nap," he said. "Making sure I'm not on my phone too long and get my blue-light glasses on." 

Robertson has only faced the Bruins once in his NHL career and that was at home, so this will be his first game in the TD Garden. 

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If Nylander is indeed out, Calle Jarnkrok is expected to take his spot on the top power-play unit. Jarnkrok hasn't played since hurting his hand on March 7, but is a savvy veteran with 86 games of playoff experience. 

"He is a very smart player," said Keefe. "He has great instincts. If a coach tells him what they need from him, he is going to go out and look to do exactly that for you. He is a right-handed shot [like Nylander]. He has a really complementary skill set that can serve a purpose."

The Leafs converted on 24 per cent of their power plays in the regular season, which ranked seventh overall. However, they went cold down the stretch. Toronto clicked on only nine of 74 chances (12.2 per cent) in the final 25 games, which ranked 30th overall in that stretch since Feb. 27. 

However, the Leafs did produce three power-play goals in the final three games of the regular season. 

"Certainly things have been trending well for us over the last few games," Tavares stressed. "A lot of continuity in the group over our time together, so just sticking with that and not getting caught up too much in how the last couple months went. There were a lot of guys in and out at times and different things. We've continued to stay with it."

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The Leafs' core (Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly) has endured a couple of painful Game 7 defeats in Boston in 2018 and 2019, but for Joel Edmundson, this is one of his favourite places to play. The veteran defenceman won a Stanley Cup in Boston back in 2019 when he played for the St. Louis Blues

"Great memories," the 30-year-old said. "Actually, I went out there and took a second before practice just to take it all in again. It's good memories and I want to make some more good memories in this arena."

What stands out about the fans in Boston? 

"They just love hockey," Edmundson said. "They're very passionate. They make sure the Bruins have home-ice advantage. They'll boo you. They'll chirp you. They'll do anything to give them the advantage, but that's what makes it so fun."  

The Boston fans even made their presence felt when the Blues were bussing to the rink in the Stanley Cup final. 

"Everyone on the sidewalk is flipping you the bird," Edmundson recalled with a chuckle. "It's funny and all of us on the bus are just laughing. It just makes it more entertaining."

"It's a blast," said Tavares, who joined the Leafs for the 2019 series in Boston. "Obviously a very passionate fan base. It's a fun place to play."

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The Leafs held an optional skate on Saturday. The Bruins decided to hold a full skate. 

"I didn't think we needed to go on the ice today, but the players wanted to," Montgomery explained. "It's an 8 o'clock game. A 7 o'clock game we probably wouldn't have been out there." 

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Projected Leafs lineup for Game 1: 


Bertuzzi - Matthews- Domi 

Knies - Tavares - Marner 

Robertson - Holmberg - Jarnkrok

Dewar - Kampf - Reaves


Rielly - Lyubushkin

Benoit - McCabe

Edmundson - Liljegren

Giordano - Brodie


Samsonov starts  



Lines at Saturday's Bruins skate: 


Heinen - Zacha - Pastrnak

Marchand - Coyle - DeBrusk

Lauko - Geekie - Frederic

Beecher - Boqvist - Maroon

Van Riemsdyk


Lindholm - McAvoy

Grzelcyk - Carlo

Shattenkirk - Peeke

Lohrei - Wotherspoon


Ullmark & Swayman