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Load management? Leafs will consider resting veterans down the stretch

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

John Tavares went down hard a​fter taking a cross-check to the back from Rangers defenceman Marc Staal in the third period on Saturday night.

“It was just one of those things where he gets you in the right spot and you just wait for some of that initial pain to subside – kind of like when you block a shot, same type of idea,” the Leafs centre said.

Tavares remained down for a few seconds and appeared to be in serious discomfort on the bench, but didn't miss a shift.

“I never felt too concerned that there was anything major, but certainly didn't feel very good,” he said with a small smile. "Just got me underneath my shoulder pad kind of in between my pant area, just in a good spot where’s there’s not too much protection or even too much muscle.”

Tavares looks to be in pain after being cross-checked by Staal. pic.twitter.com/v3EqQmL3sa

The regular season is a grind and shots like that can add up over time, taking a toll on a player. So, if you could, why wouldn't you spare your stars a little bit? Why not rest some workhorses if you have the chance?

It's a topic that the Leafs are considering at the moment. With seven games left, Toronto is seven points back of the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings while holding an eight-point cushion on the ninth-place Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the past, Mike Babcock sidestepped the issue of load management by saying his focus, and that of the team, was on securing a playoff position. But on Monday morning the coach at least seemed open to the idea of resting some veterans.

“It's a conversation you can have with them, for sure,” he said. “If you're in a spot you want to be in and you can do that. I've had lots of veterans over the years and I've had lots of different discussions. I've had guys even want to play back-to-back before they go in because depending on when you start – Wednesday or Thursday – there's a good break anyway. You're not used to that much time off. So, we'll just talk to them and make that decision based on what their needs are and how they feel and what their health is like.”

There are no shortage of candidates to........