Maple Leafs preparing to play Game 1 without William Nylander

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe opts not to comment on the status of William Nylander, who missed the Maple Leafs' final practice before Saturday's Game 1 at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.

BOSTON — While William Nylander has not officially been ruled out for Game 1, it is safe to say that if he does play Saturday, it will be at less than full health.

Nylander felt some discomfort on the club’s off-day Thursday, according to multiple reports, and has not participated in any of the team’s skates since.

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe offered “nothing” when asked for his 98-point star’s status versus the Boston Bruins in the series opener. The club has adopted a new mandate to hold injury info in-house.

“Hard to replace Willy, obviously. But we’ve had guys step up when guys go down all year, so it will be no different this time,” said friend Timothy Liljegren.

“Obviously tough for him, but hopefully he won’t miss too much, and he’ll be back.”

Until that time, Nick Robertson will be the lineup beneficiary.

On the outside looking in when the Leafs’ forward corps is at full strength, Robertson looks to slot in on the third line and is ready to savour his first taste of the post-season since he scored against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2020 playoff bubble.

Could be an intense moment for a 22-year-old who has never played in a playoff game with fans in the barn.

“You got to find ways to kind of block that out, block the emotions out, because there’s up and downs in the game,” Robertson said. “So, you just got to be emotionally stable.”

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Robertson has snapped five goals over his past 11 games, frequently providing a secondary scoring punch despite his bottom-six minutes.

“Doesn’t need many scoring opportunities,” Keefe said. “He works for everything he has.”

Taking Nylander’s spot on Toronto’s top power-play unit would be Calle Järnkrok, whose heavy, right-handed shot represents the best facsimile for a 40-goal threat.

“He’s a very smart player. He’s got great instinct,” Keefe said. “The coach tells him what they need from him, he’s gonna go out and look to do exactly that for you.”

Nylander’s doubtfulness has come as a shock because the winger has been so durable. He was the only Leaf to play all 82 games this season and has only missed one contest over the past three years.

“He’s a great player for us. So, I would expect him to compete,” Morgan Rielly said. “I mean, I think we’re all doing whatever we need to do now to play and to play our best.”

As ever in sport, one man’s misfortune is another’s opportunity.

What would it mean for Robertson — after battling multiple injuries himself and often getting demoted to the AHL — to skate in his first playoff game in four years?

“It’s everything,” Robertson said. “It’s one of the things you’d see when you’re a kid. You want to play in these environments. And to be with the Leafs and play Boston first game? Nothing better than that.”

Maple Leafs projected Game 1 lineup in Boston:

Bertuzzi – Matthews – Domi

Knies – Tavares – Marner

Robertson* – Holmberg – Järnkrok

Dewar – Kämpf – Reaves

Rielly – Lyubushkin

Benoit – McCabe

Edmundson – Liljegren

Samsonov starts


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