Dubas, Tavares embracing playoff format as 'tremendous opportunity'
Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is excited for his club's opportunity to see its season through with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially announcing the league's 24-team playoff format Tuesday.

"I think we're certainly going to embrace it as a unique experience, but also as a tremendous opportunity for our team and for our group," Dubas said Wednesday in an interview with TSN.

Under the format, the Leafs are slated to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in a best-of-five play-in series. After a wildly inconsistent 2019-20 campaign that comes on the heels of three straight first-round playoff exits, Dubas knows how important it is for his club to take the next step.

"I think we have a lot to prove. ... If we really want to take advantage of the talent and the potential that we have, it's a great opportunity now for us to individually during Phase 2 go about our own business and get into the best condition and fitness level we possibly can get into, and then for (head coach) Sheldon (Keefe) and our management group to have the team as ready as possible once we get into Phase 3," Dubas said.

Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, who was one of five player representatives on the NHL/NHLPA Return to Play Committee, says he's satisfied with the plan after some people expressed their concern about the integrity of awarding the Stanley Cup in a non-standard postseason after an abbreviated regular season.

"Any team that's got to win possibly five rounds and probably - obviously not for sure, but probably four rounds of best of seven ... I think considering what we're all going through and what it's going to take to get this done and be able to play ... it's going to be a very, very worthy and deserving Stanley Cup champion," Tavares said.

The Leafs will likely welcome forward Ilya Mikheyev - who's been out with a wrist injury since December - back into the lineup, along with defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin. Dubas also said Wednesday that prospect Nick Robertson will be included on the club's expanded 28-man roster.

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Dubas, Tavares embracing playoff format as 'tremendous opportunity'
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