TORONTO — William Nylander waited and waited. Then even after signing his big extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he had to wait some more.

All the 22-year-old Swede wanted to do after ending his contract impasse was get back on the ice with teammates. That should have happened with a practice on Wednesday, but it ended up being cancelled when the Leafs bus had engine trouble following a 4-3 overtime
win in Buffalo on Tuesday night.

“I’ve been skating by myself, so I was waiting to practice with the guys and then the bus broke down,” said Nylander. “It was like, ‘Oh OK, just one more day by myself.’”

Nylander has had two solo sessions with assistant coach D.J. Smith since signing his $45-million, six-year deal on Saturday afternoon. He finally got to rejoin the Leafs for a 20-minute morning skate Thursday and will jump straight back into the lineup against the Detroit Red Wings that night.

Expectations are modest given that it’s been more than seven months since Nylander last played competitively — in Toronto’s Game 7 loss to Boston on April 25.

“I think it goes without saying: It’s his first game of the year, no pre-season, no anything,” said Auston Matthews. “There’s going to be that rust there.”

“Just try to skate out there and just play simple from the beginning. Work my way into games. That’s all I can do,” added Nylander.

Check it out, @MapleLeafs fans. William Nylander has hit the ice for morning skate.

He’ll make his season debut tonight against the Red Wings. pic.twitter.com/mDFd9j9kaf

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 6, 2018

Still, Leafs coach Mike Babcock is throwing him directly onto the top line — alongside Matthews and Patrick Marleau — and giving him right-point duties on the second power-play unit.

Despite only playing with its full lineup for the first time now, Toronto still has the NHL’s second-best points percentage (.714) and second-highest goals-per-game average (3.64). In Nylander, the Leafs are adding a player coming off consecutive 60-point seasons who can be a difference-maker on any given night.

“When he skated yesterday, he was strong, great edges, shot the puck. He’s an intelligent player,” said Babcock. “Once he gets up to speed here, he’ll be real good, but we expect him to have energy here tonight.

“He should be the freshest guy …read more

Source:: Sportsnet.ca – Sports news

      

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Leafs, Nylander keeping expectations modest ahead of season debut

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