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Leafs winger William Nylander misses Game 1 against Bruins with undisclosed injury

Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander plays during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander plays during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
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BOSTON -

William Nylander missed the Maple Leafs' playoff opener with an undisclosed injury Saturday.

The star Toronto winger sat out after missing Friday's practice and the team's morning skate ahead of Game 1 against the Boston Bruins.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe declined to expand on Nylander's potential availability following both on-ice sessions, but all signs pointed to the 27-year-old being scratched for just the second time in the last three seasons.

Toronto rookie winger Nick Robertson slotted into the lineup as Nylander's replacement. The 22-year-old had 14 goals and 27 points in 56 contests in 2023-24.

Nylander reached 40 goals for the second straight campaign and set a career-high with 98 points in 2023-24, but registered just four assists over his final 11 games of the schedule.

A key member of the Leafs' potent attack alongside Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, Nylander had four goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games last spring as Toronto won a series for the first time in nearly two decades.

The Swede has put up 17 goals and 40 points in 50 career post-season contests.

“It's not an easy thing to do, playing in the league (all) 82 games,” Tavares said Saturday ahead of Game 1. “It's a grind and you go through a lot physically, mentally, emotionally - all those sorts of things.”

The 53rd pick at the 2019 draft, Robertson made his NHL debut inside the tightly managed post-season bubble minus fans in the summer of 2020 after the league resumed play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was very quiet, but internally I was excited,” said Robertson, who had a goal in four appearances that August. “This is more of what playoffs are really about.”

The Leafs and Bruins are meeting for the fourth time in 12 years in the first round. Boston won the three previous series - in 2013, 2018 and 2019 - in seven games.

Tavares said he's noticed growth in Robertson's approach this season.

“You see the offence come for him, which is great because that's what he does so well and he's got a tremendous shot,” Toronto's captain said. “He just continues to become more well-rounded and being a really good pro.

“Excited about what he brings to our team.”

Robertson, who's dealt with a number of injuries in his young career, has managed to stay healthy this season. Keefe said that's a key reason why he's been able to take a big step in his development.

“He works to give everything that he has,” Keefe said. “I'm proud of Nick and how he's handled himself throughout the season.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024.

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