Leafs get Kase back for Game 1 after 20-game absence due to concussion

Andrew Lahodynskyj / National Hockey League / Getty

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ondrej Kase is in the lineup for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, head coach Sheldon Keefe said Monday, according to TSN's Mark Masters.

Kase hasn't played since March 19 due to a concussion. He missed the club's final 20 games of the regular season.

The 26-year-old forward didn't practice during Monday's optional skate. The Leafs initially considered Kase a game-time decision before Keefe confirmed the change. Kase took the ice in a regular sweater Sunday for the first time since the injury.

"He was going to get in sometime … may as well start now," Keefe said Monday, according to the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby. "He's a difference-maker for our team."

Keefe explained that the club took a cautious approach with Kase down the stretch.

"I would have loved if things lined up that he could have played last week … He just wasn't comfortable at that point," the bench boss said, according to The Athletic's Jonas Siegel. "He's at the point now where he feels good."

Kase produced 14 goals and 13 assists while averaging just under 14 minutes of ice time over 50 contests in 2021-22. He's in his first season with the Maple Leafs, who signed him as a free agent in July.

Keefe also noted that Leafs winger Michael Bunting won't play in Game 1 after being deemed doubtful to suit up.

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Leafs get Kase back for Game 1 after 20-game absence due to concussion
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