National Post (Latest Edition)

Leafs stick up for Price in his struggle

- Lance Hornby

GRAVENHURS­T, ONT. • Carey Price was a big reason for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round upset loss in the playoffs, yet they all threw their support behind the rival Montreal goaltender on Thursday.

It was announced Price has voluntaril­y entered the NHL/NHLPA assistance program, dealing with personal issues. The father of three is putting ‘mental health first’ said his wife in an Instagram post.

“We were talking about it among ourselves in the room,” said captain John Tavares, Price’s Team Canada mate. “As much as we compete, there are many ways we can relate to the struggles, life in the game, the ups and downs you face as a human being. Hopefully, we see him back on the ice.”

Many players have begun speaking out about their personal challenges and believe they’re better for it.

“No doubt there is more awareness, not feeling like you have to keep a lot of things bothering you inside,” Tavares said. “There are resources and as players (it helps) hearing from one another and just recognizin­g those things. The more dedicated you are, the better you are at seeing (symptoms) among your peers and helping them out.

“It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. As great as this (pro hockey life) is, we know how great family are and keeping those things in perspectiv­e.”

WRIST, RISK AND REWARD

Less than a week from the season opener, the state of Auston Matthews’ surgically repaired wrist remains a concern.

He did uncork a onetimer under the bar during Thursday’s power play drill that drew whoops from the bench and had new goalie Petr Mrazek shaking his head.

“Good days and bad days and today it felt good, so hopefully it’s positive steps,” Matthews said. “Saturday (the club’s last exhibition game) might be cutting it a little close right now. We’ll see.”

Coach Sheldon Keefe, not one to gamble when any injured Leaf isn’t 100 per cent, remains optimistic.

“He’s had no setbacks, he continues to push. Today would by far be the longest session he’s had. He was there until the end of practice and spent time getting extra shots off.”

LINEUP SHUFFLE

The Leafs thought it best that William Nylander not get any Northern exposure.

Having just received his second COVID-19 vaccinatio­n shot last week, a little later than others, the winger was not yet cleared for all activities and was kept home.

He’s on schedule to be ready for Wednesday, said a team official.

In addition to Ondrej Kase taking Nylander’s right wing spot with centre Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev, was a juggled defence that saw Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren alternate as the third pairing with Travis Dermott and former Detroit Red Wing Alex Biega.

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