Maple Leafs' Tavares 'doing fantastic' in recovery from scary collision

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares says he's "doing fantastic" and has had a "great off-season" as he continues to recover from the scary collision that ended his 2020-21 campaign.

The 30-year-old suffered a concussion and a knee injury 10 minutes into the Maple Leafs' first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens after getting knocked to the ice by Ben Chiarot and taking Corey Perry’s knee directly to the face at high speed.

"I'm doing fantastic. It's been a great off-season for myself, obviously from a health standpoint, but even more so just continuing to get back to work and try to get better and recover well," Tavares said in an interview Thursday on the NHL Network.

"Obviously having some time really helps, (I'm) really fortunate that it wasn't anything much more than the incident and really came out of the hospital kinda been doing really well ever since and didn't really have any hiccups or any issues just kinda kept building from there. So it's been a good off-season, I'm doing great."

Initially there were fears that Tavares — who was left unconscious on the ice and didn't come to until being loaded into the ambulance minutes later — had broken his neck or suffered a brain bleed.

Fortunately, doctors found no structural damage and Tavares resumed skating within days of the incident and was attempting to work his way back into the lineup in case the Leafs made a long playoff run. That was not to be, however, as the Leafs lost in the opening round of the post-season for the fifth consecutive year.

With his sights now set on 2021-22, Tavares says he's appreciated the chance to train in group settings this summer, after being forced to focus more on individual work last off-season with his wife pregnant and amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was nice to kinda just get back out and work on some things I wanted to work on, come off the injury and be on the ice a lot, get a good feel for my game and build from there. And just try to be out with a good bunch of guys, up here," said Tavares, who put up 50 points in 56 games with Leafs last season.

As for his feelings about the state of the Maple Leafs after seeing their Stanley Cup aspirations snuffed out by the Cinderella Canadiens, Tavares remains optimistic about their chances heading into 2021-22.

"We've shown many great things in my time here over my first three years and, obviously, we've had some really tough endings to our seasons, but we just gotta keep banging on that door till we knock it down, and we really believe in each other and our group."

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