Then he grimaced.
The Toronto Maple Leafs captain did an unusual amount of pre-game work Wednesday morning – about 40 minutes of work – during his club’s optional practice and hopes to play against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Officially, Tavares is listed as a game time decision. Ditto for winger Ondrej Kase.
Both forwards missed Tuesday’s practice due to undisclosed illnesses suffered in Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings, so coach Sheldon Keefe sees that as a positive sign of their return to the ice.
“Both guys were getting ready like they were going to play, but they needed to skate and see how it went,” Keefe said. “They’ll be playing time decisions until after the warm-up, so we’ll give them as much time as possible to make sure they feel good. “
Tavares has been scorching lately, scoring six goals and collecting four assists in the Maple Leafs’ last six games.
If Tavares is playing, it looks like he will do it through pain.
If he’s unable to play, we’d expect to see the NHL debut of KHL import Kirill Semyonov, who would fit into the fourth line and topple Nick Ritchie along with Mitch Marner and Alexander Kerfoot.
Semyonov, a 27-year-old center, had nine points in his first nine AHL games with the Marlies.
At the back, Travis Dermott will be in the press box as Justin Holl returns to the lineup after spending five healthy games.
“I know he’s excited to play here. He must have been on the sidelines longer than we thought, ”Keefe said.
“I just want to see it so as not to think about it too much, not to overdo it. When he plays well, he skates offensively and defensively. He annoys people. He is physical. He stops the games and moves them across the ice to our attackers and puts us on the offensive.