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Tavares will not play for Maple Leafs against Flyers

Center who took part in morning skate to miss seventh straight because of broken finger

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- John Tavares will not play for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SNO, NBCSP, NHL.TV).

It will be the seventh straight game the forward has missed with a broken finger sustained Oct. 16.

Tavares took part in Toronto's optional morning skate and spent extra time passing and shooting with injured teammate Zach Hyman. But he said the finger didn't feel comfortable enough for him to play, and with three days until Toronto's next game, against the Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday, Tavares felt it was better to wait.

"After going with some of the testing and meeting with the doctor, going through practice yesterday and then how I responded and everything we went through this morning, just felt it was probably best to take advantage of the next three days and see some more progress in terms of the healing and the strength and put me in a better position to be in a better spot to hopefully be able to play," Tavares said. "Obviously it's disappointing. You come in, traveling with the team, the mindset of trying to get yourself ready to play. You go through those things, but at the same time you've got to be safe and make sure you do the right thing."

Tavares said there have been no setbacks since he practiced Friday.

"I think if there was any setback, I wouldn't have been on the ice today shooting the puck and whatnot," he said. "I think things are doing pretty good. We've been getting closer and closer every day and still in that position. I think with going through everything I went through, the couple practices and the meeting with the doctor yesterday and meeting the training staff this morning, going through some tests and feeling where I'm at, it was the right decision to make."

Tavares, who has seven points (three goals, four assists) in eight games, said he still needs to feel stronger gripping his stick to allow himself to play his game.

"Just being strong, being able to bear down and win puck battles," the Maple Leafs captain said. "Shooting is pretty good, but when you have to get quick shots off when you're in an awkward position, those things still continue to feel uncomfortable. I was able to do some of that testing off the ice as well, and I think medical staff felt, and talking about my symptoms, we wanted to see a little bit more progress."

The Maple Leafs are 2-2-2 without Tavares, have been outscored 21-18, and their power play is 2-for-20 (10.0 percent). In eight games before Tavares' injury, they were 4-3-1, outscored their opponents 31-27 and their power play was 7-26 (26.9 percent).

Tavares said he's hoping a few more days between now and the game against the Kings on Tuesday will be the final bit of healing he needs. 

"I've been on the day-to-day path," he said. "That was kind of the thought process, with knowing we've got three more days ahead here and I'll be pretty much at that three-week point (since the injury), and that'll be another big step to kind of get there and get some more healing and look to get more strength. Everyone's been great trying to help me get back. Just keep grinding away, keep myself best prepared."

Forward Jason Spezza likely would have been scratched if Tavares had been able to play, but now he'll be in the lineup. Coach Mike Babcock said regardless of who plays, players need to step up and show they deserve to stay in when the group is at full strength.

"I think it's just about opportunity and finding out who's capable of stepping up and who can maybe slot themselves up on the lines," Babcock said. "And yet in saying that, you're a better team when you have everybody on deck and everyone's slotted in the right spot."

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