Oilers' McDavid enters COVID protocol as Maple Leafs' Matthews returns

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews says that he feels great and plans on playing after he made his return to practice since testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.

TORONTO – Auston Matthews is back, and Connor McDavid is out.

Although the Toronto Maple Leafs star was sidelined as a precautionary measure for team practices Monday and Tuesday due to a positive rapid antigen COVID-19 test, Matthews rejoined the club Wednesday morning without missing a game.

“I feel great. I didn’t have any symptoms or anything. I plan on playing,” Matthews said. “Should be fresh.

“Not ideal, having to take two days off skating and practising and that kind of stuff, but it is what it is and just kind of have to adjust along the way.”

The asymptomatic Matthews submitted a negative PCR test Monday, but all further tests came back negative.

This is the second week in a row Matthews has submitted a false positive.

“We all know how good he is,” defenceman Rasmus Sandin said. “So it's obviously a huge help for our team to have him back on the team, and it's great to see him back today.”

The only member of the Leafs currently in protocol is assistant coach Dean Chynoweth, who was confirmed positive Monday.

The healthy Maple Leafs will host a struggling Edmonton Oilers squad that was delivered a severe COVID blow Wednesday.

Centres McDavid and Derek Ryan and defenceman Tyson Barrie all entered protocol and will be unavailable to play.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “It wreaks havoc with your team, for sure.

“When two of your four centremen are out, and one of them is Connor McDavid, that’s not a positive.”

One-Timers: Ondrej Kase tweaked something in the gym Tuesday, so he’ll be replaced by Nick Ritchie in the Leafs lineup. Kase is listed as day-to-day. ... Toronto assigned winger Kyle Clifford to the taxi squad from the Marlies. ... Zack Kassian returns to the Oilers. ... Zach Hyman on making his return to Toronto: “I think it’ll be more meaningful when there are fans in the building.” ... Mike Smith starts in goal for the Oilers. ... And Mikko Koskinen gave some pointed comments to Finnish reporter Tommi Seppälä in response to Coach Tippett criticizing his early turnover in Monday’s loss to the Rangers:

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