Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares is already back on the ice just one week removed from sustaining a concussion and knee injury in Game 1 of the team’s first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s huge, just having him here and being able to talk to him. We want to support him,” Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “I don’t know exactly what his timeline is but having him around the rink is a great sign.”
Tavares fell awkwardly after a hit by Canadiens’ defenseman Ben Chiarot. On his way down, Montreal forward Corey Perry’s knee struck Tavares’ head
On Sunday, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said Tavares had visited the team at Ford Performance Centre, the team’s practice facility.
Forward William Nylander also disclosed that Tavares had been sending the team text messages on a regular basis and that the captain had also been appearing on FaceTime for post-game gatherings.
“There’s no real update, other than he’s progressing very well. He felt really good, Keefe said of Tavares on Thursday. “He’s got two different (injuries) they’re monitoring, and progress has been good on both fronts.”
Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas put a timeline of a minimum of two weeks for Tavares’ knee injury with an indefinite timeline for his concussion.
His return to the ice is a positive sign as the team shuffled up its second line in Tavares’ absence.
Tavares had 19 goals and 31 assists in 56 games this season. With their captain out of the lineup, the team has shuffled up the second line. Nick Foligno played centre in Tavares’ spot for Game 2 before he was sidelined for Games 3 and 4 with a lower-body injury.
Alex Kerfoot has since occupied the role as the team’s second-line centre and the line has performed well in Tavares’ absence. Nylander and Kerfoot are tied for the team lead with five points.
Changes for Game 5
Rasmus Sandin will return to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for Game 4.
Sandin scored a power-play goal in the Leafs’ 5-1 win against the Canadiens in Game 2.
Travis Dermott will come out of the lineup after making his 2021 post-season debut in a 4-0 win against the Canadiens in Game 4
Foligno remains day-to-day
Maple Leafs forward Nick Foligno will miss his third consecutive playoff game with a lower-body injury. He was on the ice with Tavares before the morning skate session began.
Keefe said the forward is progressing from his injury but remains “day-to-day”.
Chance to advance
The Toronto Maple Leafs can advance to the second round with a win on Friday.
“They’re going to bring their best game, that’s what we’re expecting,” Leafs defenseman Justin Holl said.
The winner of this series will meet the Winnipeg Jets, who swept the Edmonton Oilers in their first-round series.