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Marner focused on improving shot before returning to Maple Leafs

Forward wearing walking boot, out at least one month with high ankle sprain

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

TORONTO -- Mitchell Marner is out at least one month with a high ankle sprain, but the Toronto Maple Leafs forward said he thinks the time away gives him a perfect opportunity to concentrate on building up strength to improve his shot.

"You're always frustrated because you can't get out there with the guys, can't go on the road trip we have coming up and you feel like you can't help out," Marner said. "But at the same time, there's always positives you can look to and I'm really going to try and focus on getting stronger in my body now so when I come back, my shot is more lethal. Hopefully when I get back, my shot is a little better and I can score more."

The Maple Leafs (9-6-4) play their second game without Marner (18 points; four goals, 14 assists) against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSG+, NHL.TV) and are home to face the Boston Bruins on Friday before beginning a six-game road trip at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Marner was injured in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday when he got tangled up with Flyers forward Carsen Twarynski off the opening face-off in the second period and fell backwards awkwardly on his right leg. He played one more shift but again fell, this time on his own, before leaving at 1:57 to go to the locker room. Though Marner returned during a TV timeout with 9:34 left in the second to test his ankle, he went back to the room without playing a shift.

Video: PHI@TOR: Marner leaves with injury in 2nd

The 22-year-old missed five games in his NHL career prior to the injury and said he was initially afraid to look back at his ankle.

"When I fell, I felt a snap kind of in my ankle and that's why when I looked back, I was expecting my ankle to be facing the wrong direction," Marner said.

Marner is wearing a walking boot on his right foot, and said the plan is to remove it Friday and then begin a treatment schedule of mobility exercises. He said he's fortunate the injury was not worse.

"When I noticed it wasn't (in the wrong direction) I didn't really know what the feeling was or what the result could have been," he said. "I got pretty lucky that nothing substantial came out of that."

The injury prevents Marner from reuniting with center John Tavares and left wing Zach Hyman, who will return Wednesday after missing the first 19 games of the season recovering from ACL surgery in April.

"It obviously would be nice to be able to come back and play with him again and to reunite on that front," Hyman said. "But for me, it's good to be back and I know he'll be back soon, and I guess by then I'll be up to game speed by then. It [stinks] though when a guy like that gets hurt."

Hyman skated with Tavares and right wing Kasperi Kapanen at practice Tuesday. He said he's eager to get back into game action and wants to keep his game simple and focus on playing to his strengths, which is to forecheck effectively and get the puck to his linemates.

"I've learned to do what I do best and not worry about other things, just to play simple," Hyman said. "Hopefully I'll pick up where I left off. I have a good mindset about what I need to do out there. I'm not going to try to do too much."

Kapanen, who started the season at left wing with Tavares and Marner, is looking forward to another opportunity to play alongside the Maple Leafs captain.

"I think it's pretty easy to play with an all-star like John," Kapanen said. "Even though at the beginning of the year we didn't really get many points, I think we got some chances and built some chemistry. And this time around being on the right side, which is more familiar to me, so that will be even better."

Tavares, who has four points (two goals, two assists) in four games since returning from a seven-game absence because of a broken finger, said he thinks the Maple Leafs are equipped to carry on without Marner until he returns.

"I think really well," Tavares said. "Certainly, you're not going to replace his skill set and the elite player that he is, but I think as a group we can go out there and be effective and everyone can contribute and do what we need to do to get good results and play good hockey."

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