Tavares expects to be ready for Maple Leafs training camp

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John Tavares said he’s “doing fantastic” after recovering from a concussion and knee injury sustained during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Toronto Maple Leafs center is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s been a great offseason for myself from a health standpoint,” the Toronto captain told NHL Network on Thursday, “but even more so, I think just continue to get back to work and try to get better and recover well.

“I think [having] some time really helps. Really fortunate it wasn’t anything much more than the incident and [I] really came out of the hospital doing really well ever since, and didn’t really have any hiccups or any issues. Just kind of kept building from there. So it’s been a good offseason and I’m doing great. The support from the hockey community has been tremendous.”

The center was hospitalized overnight after he sustained a concussion and knee injury in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Montreal Canadiens on May 20 when he fell after being checked by Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot and then was hit in the head by the left knee of Montreal forward Corey Perry.

Tavares did not play the remainder of the best-of-7 series, won by the Canadiens in seven games after the Maple Leafs lost the final three, but did participate in an optional morning skate prior to Game 7 on May 31.

Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas told TSN Toronto 1050 on July 22 that all indications were Tavares would be “good to go” for camp, which is expected to open in mid-September.

Tavares said he has been benefiting from recent informal on-ice workouts.

“For me, it was nice to just kind of get back out and work on some things I wanted to work on,” he said, “come off the injury and be on the ice a lot, get a good feel for my game and build from there with a good group of guys.”

Tavares was Toronto’s third-leading scorer last season with 50 points (19 goals, 31 assists). He said he was inspired by comments made last week by teammate Auston Matthews, who told ESPN, “I truly believe that we’re going to get it done” and win the Stanley Cup.

The Maple Leafs (35-14-7) finished first in the seven-team Scotia North Division last season but did not get past the first round of the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. Toronto has not reached the second round since 2004.

“I love it,” Tavares said of Matthews’ comments. “We go out there and play to win. And you believe in yourself, you believe in your group and your team. And I think we’ve shown many great things in my time here over my first three years and obviously we’ve had some really tough endings to our season, but we’ve just got to keep knocking and banging on that door until we knock it down.”

Matthews led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games last season and was tied for fifth with 66 points (Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks). He is expected to miss the start of training camp after having wrist surgery Aug. 13 that will sideline him for a minimum of six weeks.

“That’s one of the best players in the world,” Tavares said. “[He] had a tremendous season and [is] such a big reason why we’re going to have great opportunities and great success going forward, so it’s great to see him lead the way he does … that we’re going to find a way to break that door down and get to where we want to get to.

“It’s obviously been disappointing, but you know how challenging it is, this level, this league, year in and year out and many teams before us have faced their own adversity, their own challenges, their own doubts, whether that’s externally or internally, and that’s what makes competing and winning the Stanley Cup so special is really not knowing truly what it takes to get there until you get there, and trying to understand that part of it. So it’s fantastic just to have his presence and his belief in the group.”

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