The Maple Leafs’ fourth line of Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds is being celebrated for its combined NHL experience of over 3,000 games.
But Riley Nash has done something they haven’t.
The 32-year-old centre is the only active player who has been part of two teams that eliminated the Leafs from the playoffs over the last four seasons: the 2017-18 Boston Bruins and last year’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
Now he’s on the other side and preparing to make his Leafs debut in Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.
Nash has a reputation for reliable defensive play, a major part of what attracted the Leafs when he was acquired from Columbus before the April trade deadline for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. He was on long-term injured reserve at the time with a knee injury and spent the last five weeks rehabbing. With the help of the Leafs training staff, he says he’s ready to step into an unusual situation — right into the playoff fire after a long layoff.
“Definitely unique, not something I’ve been through before,” Nash said after Monday’s practice. “I’m just trying to get acclimated as fast as possible.
“Kind of nice that I’ve been injured a bit. I’ve been able to watch some games, see (Toronto’s) style of play, see the little nuances and differences from our system in Columbus. Trying to get my mindset and my thinking…