TORONTO – This is no way to get out of a slump.
Matthews was officially listed as a “game-time decision” for Monday’s visit by the Vegas Golden Knights after spending just seven minutes on the ice at the morning skate. Head coach Mike Babcock indicated he’s dealing with a “little soreness” and hinted that it’s not stemming from an incident in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Blues.
“Well I don’t think anything happened in St. Louis,” said Babcock. “How’s that?”
His potential absence comes at an inopportune time for a team with five losses in its last six games. Matthews has been one of the lone bright spots during that stretch and currently sits fourth in the NHL scoring race with 18 points in 15 games.
The sight of him leaving Monday’s skate early didn’t seem to surprise teammates.
“No, I think it was just more of a maintenance thing,” said centre Nazem Kadri. “He just wanted to go out and test a few things out. So like I said – I’m not really updated and don’t know what’s going on – but I’m sure he’ll be OK.”
After Matthews left, linemate William Nylander shifted to centre in line rushes between Zach Hyman and Connor Brown.
Nylander has been deployed as a right-winger for the majority of his NHL career and said, “I’ll be ready to play centre if I need to, but I don’t think I’ll have to.”
If Matthews is unable to play, it’ll be the first time he’s missed a game for the Leafs. He dressed for all 82 last season, plus six in the playoffs and the first 15 this season – putting up 54 goals and 92 points across those 103 games total.
Perhaps it won’t come to that.
“It would be unfortunate,” said Kadri. “I don’t really know what his status is. I can’t imagine it being too bad.
“He’s an important piece of our team and if he’s not going we’re going to have to have some other guys step up.”