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Leafs winger William Nylander sits 3rd straight playoff game with undisclosed injury

TORONTO — William Nylander seems to be getting closer. The Maple Leafs winger also still isn't quite ready join the playoff fray.
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander (88) works around Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Austin Watson (51) and left wing Conor Sheary (73) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. Nylander appears to be nearing a return to the Maple Leafs' lineup. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara

TORONTO — William Nylander seems to be getting closer.

The Maple Leafs winger also still isn't quite ready join the playoff fray.

Nylander missed a third straight game to open Toronto's first-round series with the Boston Bruins on Wednesday as he continues to work his way back from an undisclosed injury.

The 27-year-old took part in line rushes alongside Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Holmberg at Wednesday's morning skate after missing the first two contests of the Original Six matchup, but stayed out late on the ice at Scotiabank Arena with the projected scratches.

Nylander's spot in the lineup was once again taken by rookie forward Nick Robertson.

Toronto centre Auston Matthews skipped the morning skate, but was good to go for Game 3. The sniper, who had 69 goals in the regular season, scored the winner and added two assists as part of a monster performance in Monday's 3-2 victory in Boston.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said there was a chance Nylander — who was also on the ice Monday morning with his teammates ahead of Game 2 at TD Garden, but didn't take line rushes — would suit up in front of the home fans Wednesday.

The Swede instead missed a third straight contest after suiting up for all 82 in the regular season.

Nylander put up 40 goals for the second straight campaign and set a career-high with 98 points in 2023-24, but registered just four assists over his final 11 appearances down the stretch.

"He means a lot to this team," said Leafs winger Mitch Marner, who's without a point in the series. "He's done a lot for us offensively to make our team excel."

Nylander has missed time due to illness at different points in his career, but hadn't been sidelined with an injury since November 2016 until this series.

The Leafs and Bruins are meeting in the first round for the fourth time in 12 years. Boston won the three previous series — 2013, 2018 and 2019 — in seven games.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery was asked about the uncertainty around Nylander's status Wednesday.

"I'm hoping he's not playing," Montgomery deadpanned.

Nylander had four goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games last spring as Toronto won a series for the first time in nearly two decades. He's combined for 17 goals and 40 points in 50 career post-season contests.

"We've had some guys go out with major things and some guys really step up — nothing really different now," Marner said of Toronto's roster depth. "Just make sure we're doing the same thing, same course, trusting everyone through the lineup."

The Leafs and Bruins will have 48 hours off between Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series.

Keefe has been pleased with his group's response minus one of its key contributors through six periods of playoff hockey.

"You keep pressing on," he said of life minus Nylander. "How you need to play and what's required to win at this time of year is the same no matter who's in or out."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press