- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Toronto Maple Leafs star John Tavares participated in an optional morning skate on Monday, but coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed the center wasn’t available to play in Game 7 against Montreal.
Tavares has been out since leaving Game 1 of the series on a stretcher, suffering both a concussion and a knee injury in an accidental collision with Canadiens forward Corey Perry’s knee.
“He’s had no setbacks here. That’s very positive. Things seems to be progressing very well with regards to the knee and he’s had no setbacks with regards to the concussion. He’s made good progress and they’re going to continue to be cautious and safe about it,” said Keefe. “His recovery has been quite remarkable, even from the morning after the injury when he was pretty much back to himself. He’s had no issues since then. It’s a relief to him on that front.”
Having Tavares taking part in an optional skate just added to the Leafs’ motivation to win Game 7 against the Canadiens on Monday, according to veteran center Jason Spezza.
“We all know how hard John works and how much he cares. By us winning this game tonight, [it] gives him a chance to potentially come back and play. That’s just another reason that we want to win this game today,” he said.
The injury news was less positive for Jake Muzzin, a key defenseman for the Leafs. He appeared to pull something as he skated in Game 6. Keefe said Muzzin will be out a minimum of three weeks with a lower body injury.
Toronto and Montreal are meeting for the first time in the playoffs in 43 years. The Leafs lost Game 1 after losing Tavares, but stormed back to win three straight games. However, Toronto dropped two straight overtime decisions to Montreal, who scored both game-winning goals on costly Leafs turnovers, to knot the series at 3-3.
Game 7 is scheduled for Monday night at 7 p.m. ET.
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