The showdown between the hockey’s most dangerous goal-scorer and its most prolific point-getter has been put on hold until Monday, at the earliest.
Matthews aggravated his wrist during Wednesday’s overtime victory over the Calgary Flames when he crashed hands-first into the boards. Matthews completed the game, gathering a pair of assists, but coach Sheldon Keefe shielded his top centre from taking faceoffs.
Listed as day-to-day, Matthews missed the team’s full practice Friday and skated with the reserves Saturday morning at Rogers Place:
"He's played through some stuff here all year long, and he's been a complete stud," Joe Thornton said.
Toronto (15-4-2) has already missed 55 man-games due to injuries this season, and this will mark Matthews’ second absence against the red-hot Oilers, who carry a five-game win streak into the night.
The Leafs will welcome back a trio of healthy players to their lineup, however.
Shutdown defenceman Jake Muzzin (fractured face bone) will don a full cage, and veteran Joe Thornton (lower body) jumps back into the top six.
Beloved backup goalie Jack Campbell (2-0-0) gets his first start since suffering a leg injury on Jan. 24.
"He's amazing. He was watching some tape [on the plane], and I was laughing because on every clip he makes the save and he tapped someone that's closest to him,” Justin Holl said, with a smile. “Like, it doesn't even matter. It could be me, and I didn't even do anything on the play."
Matthews’ injury paves the way for a John Tavares–Mitch Marner reunion on the front line.
"We've already played a game this season without Auston against the Oilers. Putting John and Mitch together, they've got a long history of playing together, and having Joe available today will give our whole group a boost," coach Sheldon Keefe said.
Tavares enjoyed his most productive season, 2018-19, with Marner on his wing, and the elite playmaker will try to help the captain out of an offensive funk that has seen Tavares score one goal in his past 10 outings.
Thornton skated alongside that duo Friday, staying on the ice to take extra reps with Tavares.
"He just wants the puck all the time, and I think that's a good sign," Thornton said of his fellow No. 1 draft pick.
"He always wants to distribute and handle the puck, and he's not afraid of the puck coming to him so I like that. And, off the ice, a real good guy, an easy guy to talk to. And when he opens up, he's a surprising guy. It's nice."
The Maple Leafs assigned Kenny Agostino and Timothy Liljegren to their taxi squad for this five-game western road trip, while newly acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenceman Martin Marincin have been loaned to the AHL Marlies.
Liljegren, 21, has impressed early this season, putting up six points through eight games with the Marlies.
"Regardless of his start,” coach Sheldon Keefe notes, “he's someone we've wanted to get some games.”
Saturday’s projected lines: