"He’s day-to-day," Leafs coach Mike Babcock confirmed following practice on Friday. "He’ll get looked at more today, and then we’ll know more about the day-to-day tomorrow."
Babcock has used the term ‘day-to-day’ to describe an injury in which he feels a player will out of the lineup for approximately 10 days.
Matthews underwent an MRI on Friday morning, and a clearer indication of the severity of the injury is expected on Saturday.
One shift after scoring his 28th goal of the season in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the New York Islanders, Matthews left the game following a hit in which he was sandwiched by defenceman Adam Pelech and forward Ryan Clutterbuck at 18:51 of the third period.
Matthews has 28 goals and 22 assists in 53 games this season. His departure from the lineup will result in a shifting of lines.
William Nylander will move from the wing to centre to fill Matthews’ spot. Connor Brown will be elevated to play on the right wing to fill Nylander’s spot on the team’s top line.
"I just try to play the same way," Nylander said. "It’s a little different of a position, but mentally you try to play the same way, not much changes in the game."
Matthews missed 10 games this season due to injury. On Nov. 8, he missed four games with an upper-body ailment. On Dec. 9, Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly in a game against Pittsburgh. He missed the next six games due to a concussion.
"Auston’s going to be out for a bit anyway, so it’s an opportunity," Babcock added.
Either Josh Leivo or Matt Martin will enter the lineup for Toronto on Saturday. Leivo has been a healthy scratch for 23 consecutive games. He last played a game on Dec. 31 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Leivo has also been the topic of trade speculation as Monday’s NHL trade deadline approaches.
"I’ve been in this situation before so it’s nothing new," Leivo said. "I just have to be ready if I’m playing."
Martin has missed the last 14 games as a healthy scratch. His last game was against Colorado on Jan. 22.
This Leafs (38-20-5) are currently in third place in the Atlantic Division, and 21 points clear of the closest team that could knock them out a post-season berth (Florida 27-25-6). A prolonged absence from Matthews wouldn’t pose much risk to Toronto’s playoff aspirations.
Toronto is one point back of Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division. They visit Tampa Bay (41-17-3) on Monday, who hold a four-point lead over the Leafs for first place.
"We feel good about where we are," Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly said. "There are two games coming up, and an opportunity make up some ground. (We can) put ourselves in a good position."