Nylander now in catch-up mode for Leafs, and Matthews can relate

Auston Matthews doesn’t have to imagine what kind of transition William Nylander is experiencing right now.

Matthews, recently back in the Maple Leafs lineup from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss 14 games, remains in a similar state of adjustment.

Matthews has eight points (five goals and three assists) in four games “It’s still a process,” Matthews said. “I feel like it really takes about a month to almost get back, and game by game you want to feel more like yourself.

“These last couple of games, the first period has been really tough for me to get myself going. In the second and third I started feeling much better, but I want to feel good the whole game.”

Where Matthews differs from Nylander, of course, is that he is not being asked to hit the ground running. Matthews was excellent for the Leafs before he was hurt on Oct. 27, scoring 10 goals in 11 games.

Nylander has played in one game and on Friday practised with his Leafs teammates for the first time after missing the first two months because of his contract dispute.

“I don’t know how I would feel if I was just literally jumping into a game from summer skates for the last couple of months,” Matthews said. “I think timing is up there as one of the most important (facets) in trying to get back.

“Willie is a guy who can slow things down and when you have not played a hockey game and jump into Game 29 (as Nylander did against Detroit on Thursday), it’s pretty tough.

“I don’t think you can expect the guy from six, seven months since his last game to jump in and be the guy that he is in Game 40. Nobody in here is worried about him. I’m sure the next couple of weeks he will work extremely hard to getting back to feeling how he does (normally) and go from there.”

Against the Red Wings, Nylander played a total of 12 minutes 29 seconds, with no shifts in the final 11 minutes of regulation or in overtime.

“It’s just nice to get the first (game done), otherwise it could have been like this coming into Boston, so now I have a game and a practice in me, and it feels a little better,” Nylander said. “(It’s) probably more the timing. I have been skating a lot back home, so I think it’s just the timing of things and battles around the boards and stuff, which is a little different.

“It’s going to take a couple of games until you get there.”

As elite as Matthews and Nylander are, coach Mike Babcock doesn’t expect anything less than an arduous re-acclimation.

“There are eight exhibition games for a reason and training camp for a reason,” Babcock said, “and then the league starts slow and goes faster and faster and it’s hard to arrive late.

“They are really good players so they are going to be able to do things in the meantime. For them to feel as good as they want to feel and know they have rhythm and it’s going their best, it’s going to take them some time.”

LESS TROUBLE BRUIN?

On Saturday night, the Boston Bruins will be without two crucial players, centre Patrice Bergeron and defenceman Zdeno Chara, as both are injured.

Bergeron and Chara have helped make life hell for the Leafs in the past.

“Those guys are hard to replace, and they are irreplaceable, but they have good team dynamics and they usually follow a structure pretty well and that’s what has brought them a lot of success in the past,” Nazem Kadri said. “They have some depth players. They are going to be ready to play.”

The Leafs have not yet had to face Boston defenceman Charlie McAvoy, who was injured and out of the lineup when the teams met twice earlier this season. McAvoy recently returned after recovering from a concussion.

“Their defence is better than last time we played them,” Babcock said. “They have always played us tough. They got good players, we understand that, it’s going to be a good game.”

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies