Dubas: Leafs' Tavares suffered knee injury along with concussion in scary collision

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TORONTO — Maple Leafs captain John Tavares is dealing with a knee injury as well as a concussion after being stretchered off the ice following a scary collision in Game 1 of Toronto's first-round playoff series against Montreal.

But general manager Kyle Dubas says the veteran centre avoided any structural damage to his head, neck and spine after taking an accidental knee to the face from Canadiens forward Corey Perry.

Speaking with reporters on a virtual conference call prior to Game 2 of the Original Six matchup, Dubas indicated the knee issue is expected to keep Tavares out of the lineup at least two weeks.

His availability for the rest of the post-season, however, remains up in the air.

"The head injury and concussion, I think it's very difficult to place a timeline on when someone's going to return," Dubas said Saturday morning. "We handle those in a very conservative nature, and handle them very sensitively. We will follow the protocols to a tee with that.

"We can't replace that element with John and can't repair it."

Tavares was checked to the ice in the first period of Thursday's 2-1 loss in Game 1 by Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot into the path of an onrushing Perry, who was unable to avoid contact. The 30-year-old lay motionless before trying to get up as trainers and doctors from both teams provided medical attention inside an empty, eerily quiet Scotiabank Arena.

Dubas said Tavares, who signed a seven-year, US$77-million contract in free agency in the summer of 2018 and was Toronto's third-leading scorer during the NHL's pandemic-shortened season, was taken to St. Michael's Hospital where he received a CT scan and MRI before being discharged Friday morning.

The GM also voiced the Leafs' displeasure at the front page of Friday's Toronto Sun that featured the headline "Captain Crunched" and a picture of a bloodied Tavares.

"The Toronto Sun cover of their newspaper crossed the line, and we found the cover to be disgusting," he said. "It was extraordinarily insensitive.

"Just a complete lack of compassion and respect on behalf of the Sun towards John and his family."

The Sun ran an editor's note in Saturday's edition along with four letters criticizing the tabloid's coverage of the incident.

"Many readers were upset by the Toronto Sun's front-page picture of Maple Leafs captain John Tavares prior to being stretchered off the ice during Thursday night's game against the Canadiens under the headline Captain Crunched," the note read. "This was our coverage of a major news event that had already been witnessed live by millions of Canadians.

"We meant no disrespect to Tavares, his family, the Maple Leafs' organization or our readers, and we wish the Leafs' captain a full and speedy recovery."

The game broadcast on Sportsnet, CBC and TVA attracted a combined audience of nearly 4.5 million viewers.

Dubas was shown on the broadcasts rushing to be with Tavares and communicate with his loved ones by phone — something he also did after Ilya Mikheyev suffered a serious laceration and Jake Muzzin was stretchered off the ice in separate incidents last season.

"In all three of them, we were either on the road or we were at home, but with no fans, so the player's family isn't there," Dubas said. "They need someone to be the conduit. Our players and coaches are in the game, our medical staff is attending to an emergency situation. I would never want the families — I just think about my own family if something happened to me — to be unaware of what was happening.

"You care about the player deeply, and what their status is, but also to be able to provide updates."

Dubas, who thanked doctors, NHL teams, players and fans for their support, said the rest of the Leafs' roster is dealing with the situation as best it can.

"To see something in a completely accidental, freak situation like that happen, I think it makes everybody feel vulnerable, especially the players who play the game," he said. "They're big, strong, young guys, and you don't ever imagine being in that situation.

"It gives a sense of vulnerability to not only the players on our team, but both teams and throughout the league. Those are tough things to handle. As with everything after a moment of trauma, there's some trepidation and things sort of slowly start to return back to normal, but I think our guys are handling it as well as possible."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2021.

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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