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John Tavares Joins Maple Leafs For Morning Skate, Status for Season Opener Unclear

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares skated with the group of players who are heading down Highway 401 to take on the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares continues to make progress in his recovery from an oblique injury, but the team is remaining cautious in terms of giving the player a timeline to return.

“In his case in particular and the nature of his injury, we would love to have John back, but he’s going to be very mindful of the bigger picture and making sure it’s not something that is going to linger with him,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said on Friday. “He’s feeling really good and it’ is very encouraging and positive.”

Tavares took part in the team’s morning skate ahead of their pre-season game against the Detroit Red Wings. Following the session, the captain joined fellow injured players Timothy Liljegren (hernia) and Fraser Minten (hand) working with conditioning staff as the non-travelling group of players took part in practice.

Tavares injured his oblique during a pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 24.  Three days later, Keefe told reporters that the forward would be out for a minimum of three weeks.

Although the original timeline pushed Tavares to be out until at least Oct. 18, Keefe injected some optimism earlier this week by not ruling the captain out for the team’s home opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 12.

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As the Maple Leafs get ready to slim down their roster after this weekend, injured players who aren’t on long term injured reserve don’t help Toronto’s cause in coming up with a salary cap compliant roster.

There could be a scenario where the Maple Leafs have to dress short of 20 players should they not have enough injury exception space.

The 32-year-old Tavares had 27 goals and 76 points in 79 games last season. And it’s clear they will be cautious with their captain before giving him the all clear.

On Monday, they expect Tavares will ramp up his training and there should be more clarity on his status at that time.

“We’ve been very mindful of the fact that we want him free and clear of this before he gets into game action.”