John Tavares took part in an optional morning skate with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), but will not play.
The center sustained a concussion and knee injury during Game 1 on May 20. The knee injury was projected to sideline Toronto’s captain for a minimum of two weeks and no timetable was given for a return from the concussion.
“Obviously he’s progressed and he’s getting to the point now where he’s on the ice with other players and the fact that he’s had no setbacks here, that’s very positive,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Obviously he’s dealing with two different things, recovery from the concussion and recovery from his knee injury. Things seem to be progressing very well in regards to the knee and he’s had no setbacks or anything like that in regards to the concussion so things have progressed very well.”
Tavares was injured when he fell near the blue line after being checked by Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot and then was hit in the head by the left knee of Montreal forward Corey Perry with 9:31 remaining in the first period of the series opener. He was taken from the ice on a stretcher and examined by the St. Michael’s Hospital neurosurgical team and the Maple Leafs medical director.
After staying overnight, Tavares was released to go home the next day under the supervision of Maple Leafs doctors.
“He’s making progress,” Keefe said. “Of course we’re going to continue to be very cautious and safe about it. His health is of the utmost importance. But as I said, his recovery has been quite remarkable, even from the next morning of the injury he was pretty much back to himself and he’s had no issues since then.”
General manager Kyle Dubas said the knee injury is similar to the sprained MCL sustained by Toronto forward Zach Hyman on April 18. Hyman returned from his injury to play Game 1.
If the Maple Leafs win Game 7, they will play the Winnipeg Jets in the Stanley Cup Second Round, with Game 1 scheduled for Wednesday. The timeline for Tavares recovering from the knee injury would be Thursday.
“We all know how hard John works and how much he cares,” Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza said. “By us winning this game tonight it gives him the chance to potentially come back and play. So that’s just another feather in our cap and a reason why we want to win this game today. John’s a big part of this. To see him on the ice is great. He’s making great progress. Just being around him the last few days, he’s in great spirits. The best thing we can do as teammates is win a hockey game for him and give him an opportunity to get closer to playing.”
The Maple Leafs, who had a 3-1 lead against the Canadiens in the best-of-7 series, have not won a playoff series in 17 years, since defeating the Ottawa Senators in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Since that time, they have qualified for the postseason six times but have lost seven straight games with the chance to clinch a series.
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report