By Kristen Shilton, TSN Toronto Maple Leafs Reporter
Apr 9, 2021
TORONTO — Maple Leafs winger William Nylander will remain in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol until at least late next week, after exposure to a potentially positive case of the virus.
That means Nylander will miss at least three more games in the coming days. But what matters most to Nylander’s teammates is his continued good health.
“From what I've heard, the tests [for Nylander] have come back negative, which is a great sign,” said Mitch Marner after Toronto’s practice on Friday. “He obviously wants to be with the team. But we all want to be able to do our part, make sure we're wearing our masks and taking care of each other. That's what we're doing.”
The NHL releases a list of players who are unavailable to their team due to COVID protocols each day at 5 p.m. ET. So far, Nylander is the only player on Toronto’s list.
While Nylander may not have returned a positive test, his teammates are confident in the measures put in place to prevent a potential spread of the virus. That includes everything from multiple dressing rooms being used to keep players adequately spaced apart, to not lingering or socializing in lounge areas.
“That's why we put a protocol [together], for these instances where there might be close contact or whatever it may be,” said Morgan Rielly. “[Nylander] is doing what he has to do, what he's been told to do, and as a team we just have to focus on what we can do.”
Coach Sheldon Keefe said not much has changed for the Leafs in their day-to-day activities since Nylander’s exposure was revealed, nor has he sensed any unease.
Nylander did participate in Toronto’s full morning skate on Wednesday before finding out about his close contact’s potential positive case. But because the Leafs had come off an eight-day road trip the night before, during which daily tests were conducted, Nylander’s possible incubation period would not have been long enough to make him contagious.
“I think the group is fine,” said Keefe. “I think they feel comfortable with where everything is at; they understand what's happening. Other than needing to monitor Will and not having him around here, in terms of our environment in our facility, guys feel relatively normal in the sense of how it's been with the team. [We continue to be] smart with the protocols and nothing's changed in that sense.”
Rielly said he spoke with Nylander after Wednesday’s game and that the forward is holding up well.
“He was doing alright. He’s just going to do whatever he's got to do,” Rielly said. “He wants us to win, so he'll be watching. But I think he's doing okay. As a team, we're going to worry about playing a game tomorrow [against Ottawa] and doing what we can today to prepare.”
That includes making adjustments to the lineup through at least these next three games without Nylander (after Saturday, Toronto faces Montreal on Monday and Calgary on Tuesday).