Matthews hasn’t played since being on the receiving end of a Jacob Trouba hit early in a 3-2 Maple Leafs win over the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 27. The team at the time expected Matthews to miss four weeks due to the injury, which means it shouldn’t be much longer before he sees game action – barring any setbacks, of course.
The star centre did not take part in line rushes while his teammates prepared for a Thursday showdown against the San Jose Sharks, but did participate in some drills.
Matthews missed time during the 2017-18 season with a shoulder injury, too, and he skated with the team for more than a full week before he was ready to finally get back into a game. The next step for Matthews will be to participate in a full-blown practice session and then to start taking contact again.
That the 2016 first-overall pick even accompanied his teammates on a West Coast road trip when injured is relatively uncommon, but Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock thought it would be beneficial.
“If you’re a married guy and you’ve got three kids and you can be at home with your family and skate at home why wouldn’t you do that? But if you’re a young guy and you’re sitting in Toronto in your condo what do you do?” Babcock told reporters Tuesday. “I mean these are your buddies, this is what you do. Why wouldn’t you hang out with your guys? I think mental health is so important in getting better as well as the physical part.”
Centre Nazem Kadri added: “As a player when you get hurt, I think the mental side of not being around the team and kind of feeling a little on the outside looking in is the most frustrating part. And not being around the guys all the time, 24/7, practising. It’s nice to have him involved and he’s a big piece of our team and we miss him. It’s nice of him to come on the road trip and hopefully he can enter the lineup sometime soon.”