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Nick Foligno centres second line at Leafs practice

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Updated with a statement from John Tavares

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - MAY 20: Nick Foligno #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up before facing the Montreal Canadiens in Game One of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Arena on May 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a practice this afternoon following their Game 1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Before the players got on the ice, we received a medical update on John Tavares. He is currently discharged from hospital and resting with his family, out indefinitely. This is probably the best news we could’ve received ~15 hours after the accident.

Update: later in the afternoon, John Tavares released a statement thanking everyone for the support.

So, the players took to the ice and we saw an obvious lineup change up front, and one that was a little unexpected.

Alex Galchenyuk is poised to face the team that drafted him in Game 2 of the series, while Pierre Engvall has returned to the lineup, replacing Riley Nash.

Then, we got the lineups, and we got a second surprise. There was a lot of speculation of who would be the second line centre. Nylander for yet another playoffs? Kerfoot, who did it last night? One of the wingers? Jason Spezza maybe? Well, it turns out the pick was Nick Foligno.

While some reveled in their clairvoyance, others were left asking if Nick Foligno has ever played centre? I asked Twitter friend and Columbus Blue Jackets expert Alison Lukan if this is something she’s seen Foligno do. Her answer: “it’s not his natural position but he can do it.”

The Leafs didn’t have any good options for a faceoff guy that can play centre, but that’s not as much of a priority compared to having a player that can play up the middle of the ice, support the defense, facilitate the puck going from defense to offense, covering the middle of the ice against rushes, and working in the middle of the offensive zone. Foligno fits a little more than half of those boxes, so good enough, I guess.

And if you do care about faceoffs a lot, William Nylander was 57% this season.

One last thing of note, Jack Campbell was absent from practice, with Frederik Andersen and David Rittich on the ice. We have no reason to suspect this is anything more than rest and recovery from Game 1 in order to get him ready for Game 2. We don’t think he suffered any injury during the game, and he was very good in net and far from losing the starting job.

Quotes from the players: