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Tavares to play in Toronto Maple Leafs season opener

The puck will drop on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs and captain John Tavares will be in the line-up for the season opener against original six rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

"The butterflies never change, no matter how many times you go through it, being Toronto Montreal, there’s nothing like it as well," Tavares said.

Tavares has missed most of training camp with an oblique strain he suffered back on Sept. 27 and was originally given three weeks to recover, but said at practice Tuesday he is ready to go.

“Feeling good, I think tomorrow looks good,” Tavares told reporters at the Ford Performance Centre. "The way I felt in the contact especially with the group here the last couple of days and the intensity of that and the physical nature and how I responded afterwards."

Tavares will play on the second line along with William Nylander and Denis Malgin.

“It gives the team a jolt and a boost, for sure, his talent and what he brings to our team,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said.

The core of the team is returning for the 2022-2023 campaign led by 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner.

The expectations are high for this squad, the Maple Leafs set a franchise record with 115 points last season, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive time.

“Ultimately our goal is to be the best team we can be, improve every day, improve off what we did last year,” Rielly said. “We have high aspirations for this group to ultimately win a championship at some point."

Toronto added two new goalies in the offseason, Matt Murray, who has won two Stanley Cups, and Ilya Samsonov.

Murray, who only allowed two goals in three pre-season games, will start in goal on Wednesday.

"There's definitely a lot [of] excitement for me getting that first game and just looking to get off on the right foot," Murray said.

"He looks confident in there, just poised, obviously he's the guy who has been there before so it's being really impressive to him in practice and games," Matthews said of Murray.

Samsonov is set to start Toronto's home opener Thursday night against his former team, the Washington Capitals.

"He's earned it and at the same time so has Ilya, but in Murray's case he's the guy with more experience and I think it's just natural for me to do it that way," Keefe said. "Both guys have performed well and certainly deserve for the opportunity to have those particular moments."

Toronto added Murray and Samsonov along with center Calle Jarnkrok and right winger Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

With files from The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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