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Why William Nylander may be out of Game 1 for the Maple Leafs

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BOSTON – The timing couldn’t have been worse when William Nylander suffered a rare injury.

Having played all 82 games during the regular season, the only Toronto Maple Leafs player to do so, all signs point to Nylander missing Game 1 of a first-round matchup against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night due to an undisclosed issue.

The Leafs haven’t formally ruled him out, but teammates spoke as if they didn’t expect to see Nylander on the ice at TD Garden for the opener.

“It’s hard for him,” defenseman Timothy Liljegren said. “Hopefully he doesn’t miss too much (time).”

If Nylander sits out, it would be only the second game in a 653-game NHL career that he misses due to injury. The first came way back in 2016, when an upper-body injury forced him out of a game against Washington in late November.

This is an unexpected turn as Nylander just played in every regular season game for the third time in his career. According to a league source, he had not resolved this issue over time, but woke up with some discomfort on Thursday for a scheduled off-day.

Nylander practiced in Boston on Friday and was absent from the Leafs’ optional morning skate on Saturday.

If he misses time, it is not expected to be an extended absence, according to the source.

The Leafs were coy on details, emphasizing only that Nylander was a “possibility” to play in the first-round opener. The fact that he hasn’t taken the ice since his last game suggests he may not be ready to play yet.

When asked Saturday morning what he could say about Nylander’s status for Game 1, head coach Sheldon Keefe replied, “Nothing.”

Nylander has missed the odd game here and there over the years, but never, outside of that one game, with an injury. He missed five games during the 2020-2021 season while in COVID-19 protocol, and two games due to illness during the 2019-2020 season. He also missed a game due to illness during the 2021-2022 season.

(Top photo: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

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