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Leafs need Nylander to reach another level "confidence-wise" before playoffs

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23.03.2019

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs who (optional) skated at Scotiabank Arena ahead of tonight's game against the Rangers.

William Nylander hasn't scored in 11 straight, but there are signs he's starting to find his top form. Since reuniting with centre Auston Matthews, he has six assists in six games.

"We're clicking," Nylander said of his line, which also includes left winger Andreas Johnsson. "We've been creating a lot of chances the last couple games and hopefully we can build off that."

While Matthews has been elevating his game for the last little bit, Nylander's momentum was stalled by an illness this week. He missed yesterday's practice, but was able to participate in Toronto's optional skate this morning.

"Willie's been sick the last couple so not quite the same energy," noted head coach Mike Babcock, "but he's feeling way better about himself, skating better and winning more battles and obviously that makes him much more dangerous. We need him to still find another level confidence-wise before the playoffs."

Nylander, who watched little brother Alexander Nylander score on Wednesday in Buffalo, certainly wants to pitch in with a few more goals of his own.

"I mean, I like getting assists, but it would be nice to score, that's for sure," he said while mustering a smile.

But Nylander is still influencing the game in a number of important ways. His ability to move the puck up the ice is a huge asset, especially with Toronto dealing with a couple key injuries to puck-moving defencemen.

"His edge work is extremely good," observed Matthews, "and just his skating ability, his head’s always up, he sees the play so well and I feel like when he's going through the neutral zone........

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