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Nazem Kadri suspension: How Leafs lineup could change vs. Bruins without center

Nazem Kadri suspension: How Leafs lineup could change vs. Bruins without center

Nazem Kadri was suspended Monday for the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins after cross-checking B's forward Jake DeBrusk in Game 2.

The immediate challenge for the Leafs entering Monday night's Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena is finding a third line that can drive puck possession and score goals in Kadri's absence.

Kadri was the team's third-line center between wingers Patrick Marleau and William Nylander in the first two games of the series -- the Leafs and Bruins split those matchups in Boston. The most logical choice to replace Kadri down the middle is Nylander, and that's how Toronto lined up during Monday's morning skate.

Here are the lines used:

Zach Hyman--John Tavares--Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson--Auston Matthews--Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau--William Nylander--Connor Brown
Trevor Moore--Frederik Gauthier--Tyler Ennis

Nylander scored a goal in the Leafs' Game 1 win and picked up an assist on Toronto's lone goal in Game 2. There shouldn't be too much concern within the Leafs about Nylander playing well at center. He's certainly skilled enough to create scoring chances for himself and teammates.

That said, the Leafs have suffered in terms of puck possession and scoring output when Nylander has been with Brown and Marleau during 5-on-5 play. If Toronto is struggling to score in Game 3 and/or later in the series, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock should move Nylander to a line with faster, more skilled teammates.

The player who most needs to improve his performance in Kadri's absence is Auston Matthews.

The 21-year-old superstar is scoreless through two games of this series, and he tallied only one goal and one assist in seven games between these teams in last season's first-round matchup. Matthews has scored 111 goals over the last three seasons, so he needs to play much better for Toronto to have the scoring depth necessary to beat a deep Bruins team. Mitch Marner and John Tavares cannot be asked to carry most of the scoring burden, especially when they're always up against defensive stalwarts Patrice Bergeron and/or Zdeno Chara.

Kadri's suspension hurts the Leafs at one of the most important positions. His teammates, most notably Matthews and Nylander, must pick up the slack without him or the Bruins could send the Leafs home with another early playoff exit.

Bruins vs. Leafs Game 3 live stream>>>

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Breakfast Podcast, April 22, 2019: Bruins gear up for Game 7 vs the Leafs

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Breakfast Podcast, April 22, 2019: Bruins gear up for Game 7 vs the Leafs

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01:40:11: Marc Bertrand, Trenni Kusnierek, and Gary Tanguay make their Game 7 predictions as the Bruins look to close the series against the Leafs, and discuss which team has more to lose. We also hear Bergeron’s postgame thoughts after Game 6 win.

08:55:11: The Red Sox begin to turn things around after Rays sweep this weekend, but Nathan Eovaldi will now undergo surgery. Merloni, Kusnierek and Tanguay discuss how his role will change upon his return. 

11:33:15 Celtics sweep the Pacers over the weekend, Tom Giles, Chris Forsberg and Danielle Trotta discuss their potential in the next round, and what key players will make a difference. 

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Patrice Bergeron on Game 7: 'It's a battle of will out there'

Patrice Bergeron on Game 7: 'It's a battle of will out there'

The Boston Bruins are entering a critical Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second-straight year. After an inspired effort in Game 6, the Bruins are going to look to defy the odds and come back from a 3-2 series deficit. And to do that, they'll have to rely on their grizzled veterans.

One of those vets is Patrice Bergeron. The long-time Bruin is playing in 11th career Game 7 and he is ready to help lead the team to victory. Bergeron spoke to reporters about the contest in a video captured by the Bruins' official Twitter account.

Obviously, It's a battle of will out there. And especially more so there in Game 7. You know, whatever it takes I guess. It's about poise. You've got to use that stress and nervousness the right way and feed off it and use the energy that way. You've got to make sure you play the right way even though there's lots on the line.

That's pretty good advice from Bergeron, and the team should be ready to take it. Bergeron has a lot of experience in these moments (10 points in 10 Game 7s played) so the younger players should follow his lead and try to stay calm and disciplined against the Maple Leafs.

But also, it will be important for the team to embrace the moment, and Bergeron is hoping that they will be able to feed off the energy from the game and the raucous crowd.

It's great. I mean, that's why you play hockey. That's why you, as an athlete, have to feed off that. We all enjoy them and it's fun to be a part of.

Game 7 will take place at the TD Garden on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. The Bruins will look to repeat history after they knocked off the Maple Leafs in seven games last season, also with home-ice advantage.

Click here for the Bruins' Game 7 history beginning in 2011>>>

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