Nylander, Matthews ready to roll vs. Wings

William Nylander helped his Maple Leafs mates spread some joy around the Hospital for Sick Children on Wednesday.

And he had some happy news to share with reporters covering the annual team visit to the world renowned medical facility.

“Yeah, I’ll be playing tomorrow,” he said of rejoining the lineup Thursday at home against Detroit.
His return — after the Leafs won 20 of their first 28 without him and a bunch minus he and injured Auston Matthews — is a bit ahead of schedule, without a full practice with yet-to-be-confirmed linemates. But after a protracted battle to get a six-year, $41.4 million US contract, he wanted back in the lineup ASAP.

It’s expected coach Mike Babcock reunites the right winger with Matthews and Patrick Marleau as was the summer plan, which would mean leaving Zach Hyman, John Tavares and Mitch Marner intact.

Some third- or fourth-line shuffling will result, possibly leaving centre Frederick Gauthier in the press box as the spare forward.

( function() { pnLoadVideo( “videos”, “stlROt80Fkg”, “pn_video_116605”, “”, “”, {“controls”:1,”autoplay”:0,”is_mobile”:””} ); } )();

Nylander, who was third in team scoring last season with 61 points in 82 games, tried to keep in shape by skating with an Austrian club team and a Swedish junior squad. Many people did not figure the Leafs could maintain such a strong clip through October and November with two-thirds of a No. 1 line absent.

“It goes to show, you play hard and play the right system, you have a good chance at winning,” Marleau said after Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win in Buffalo. “Then it can only help when you get a player like Auston back in the lineup.

“Hopefully, Willy can do what Auston does, just jump right in like he hasn’t missed a beat. It will be good to have him back.”

KIDS ARE NO. 1

Babcock and the entire team were at Sick Kids, meeting with patients, parents and staff in a recreation room, where several players tried cookie decorating for the live in-house TV station to all rooms. Later, the players fanned out to different wards to chat and sign pictures.

“Just seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces to meet the players, it makes your day,” Matthews said. “(NHLers) have some days when you complain and everything. Life could obviously be a lot worse. We’re like heroes to them and it’s pretty special to come here.”
Defenceman Jake Gardiner just became a father for the first time, so this annual visit meant more.
“We love doing this,” Gardiner said. “If we can come and brighten their day a little bit, it’s nice to give them a break.”

MATTHEWS MACHINE

After Matthews scored two picture goals against the Sabres, including the winner with 2.7 seconds remaining in overtime, mates were running out of superlatives.

“It’s pretty usual for him,” said Marleau. “It’s pretty amazing what he can do on a nightly basis and coming back from a 14-game (injury) absence.”

Matthews’ 15 goals in 14 games include a 30% shooting percentage, second in the league.
“He keeps working at his game — shooting, skating, passing — anything,” added goalie Frederik Andersen.

“That’s what great players do, try and get better and reach their level in all areas. He’s not satisfied.”

On his first goal, Matthews was the only one tracking a deflected airborne puck behind Buffalo’s net, that he gloved to the ice while beating a Sabre defender on the same move and spun a backhand wraparound before defenceman Zach Bogosian and goalie Linus Ullmark could move.

MARLEAU TOPS STOSH

While Matthews now has more goals through his first 158 games than anyone except Alex Ovechkin since the start of 2005-06, Marleau reached a significant milestone Tuesday, as well. He hit 542 goals, one more than Stan Mikita to take sole possession of 31st place in league history, and two back of Rocket Richard.

“That’s pretty cool,” Marleau said. “You see those names and Mikita was one of my dad’s favourite players growing up (in Saskatchewan).

“We were playing in Chicago when they had the ceremony for his (recent passing) to see how great of a player he was. But that night you saw what a great person he was, too.

“Norm Ullman, I remember my dad saying a lot, too. We went to an oldtimers game in Swift Current when I was 12 or 13 and Ullman was playing in that.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Andersen on facing 40 or more shots four consecutive games. “I let the stats guys (track) that. I just play” … Josh Leivo was a hit in his first game with the Canucks. The traded winger had a first-period goal and finished with three shots, five attempts, two hits and some first-unit power-play shifts in a total of 16:53 of ice time. But Vancouver lost 3-2 to Minnesota … More countries have posted their preliminary world junior championship rosters. The Leafs will have their two first-round Swedish defenecmen, Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, as well as late 2018 pick, Pontus Holmberg. Filip Kral, a Czech defenceman picked behind Holmberg, will be on his country’s list as well as previously announced Canadian goalie Ian Scott … Matthews and Mitch Marner are scheduled to be the celebrity ‘Cannon Dolls’ for the Nutcracker Ballet in Toronto on Dec. 19. For years, special guests have portrayed the colourfully costumed Russian Petrouchka dolls who shoot a cannon into the audience to begin the battle scene in Act I … Marleau, who played two years of junior in Seattle, likes the proposed ‘Kraken’ nickname for the city’s new NHL franchise … The 1934-35 Leafs, whom this year’s team emulated by winning 20 of its first 28, earned their 20th against the St. Louis Eagles, who folded at the end of that year. Moving on, the ’34-35 Leafs won 10 of their final 20 and beat Boston in the first round, but were swept in the best-of-five Stanley Cup final by the Montreal Maroons.

[email protected]

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies