The NHL’s leading scorer will be out of the lineup when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday.
Auston Matthews is day-to-day with an injury that head coach Sheldon Keefe said is “similar, but not the same” as the hand/wrist injury that forced him to miss three games earlier in the season.
“We’re not expecting it to be something that’s going to hold him out for long,” Keefe said.
Matthews was the first player to hit the ice for the team’s morning skate but promptly left before the session started.
Keefe confirmed that Matthews took the ice to test out the injury and see if could play.
Once Matthews, left the ice, forward Adam Brooks swapped his extras jersey for a bottom-six white jersey, signalling the change to the lineup.
The 23-year-old has 32 goals in 40 games this season. He missed three games with a wrist injury that had lingered at various points during the year.
Matthews leads Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen by six goals in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
With Matthews out of the lineup, the forward lines underwent a bit of an overhaul. John Tavares moved up to center the top line with Alex Galchenyuk and Mitch Marner. Alex Kerfoot moved up to the second line to center Ilya Mikheyev and Zach Hyman. Pierre Engvall moved up to the third line to center a line with veterans Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds. Brooks centered the fourth line with Nick Robertson and Jason Spezza.
On Thursday, the Leafs announced that Robertson had been placed on the team’s COVID-19 protocol due to contract tracing. After yielding a negative test, Robertson rejoined his teammates for the morning skate.
William Nylander could return to the Leafs lineup soon. The team confirmed that they are waiting for one more negative test before the forward can join his teammates on Friday.
Nylander could play as soon as Saturday when the Leafs head to Vancouver to take on the Canucks in the first game of a five-game road trip.
“Really, we’re just going to see how he is when he gets on the ice and how he feels,” Keefe said of Nylander. “Ultimately, it will be up to Will and how he’s feeling.”
Nylander will miss his fifth game after entering quarantine due to exposure to a possible COVID-19 positive case with a close contact outside of the team.
Nylander has 13 goals and 17 assists in 39 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen skated with goaltending coach Steve Briere before the team’s morning skate on Thursday. It was the first time he had been seen skating, although Keefe said it wasn’t the first time that the injured.
“It was awesome to see him on the ice, he’s a massive massive part of our team,” forward Zach Hyman said. “To see him back in his element and back on the ice is extremely encouraging for us.”
Andersen hasn’t played a game since Mar. 19. He was later placed on long-term injured reserve when the team made space to acquire injured forward Riley Nash and acquire other players like Nick Foligno, David Rittich and others.
Keefe says Andersen will join the team on the upcoming road trip, but they’ll need to free up some cash before activating the goaltender. Based on the current roster construction, the removal of a player or two should be enough to activate Andersen. Players like Robertson and Sabourin can be assigned to the taxi squad and Marlies, without the risk of waivers.
Leafs sign Amirov
The team announced on Friday that they signed forward Rodion Amirov to a three-year, entry-level deal.
Amirov was selected by the Leafs with the 15th selection in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
With his KHL season complete, Amirov will join the Marlies and Maple Leafs development program after his visa and quarantine records are met.
The deal starts next season and based on Leafs GM Kyle Dubas’ comments, Amirov will likely continue to develops career with Ufa of the KHL next season.
“Ufa has done an excellent job guiding Rodion’s development as a player to date and we are excited to work very closely with them through the summer and into the future,” Dubas said in a statement.
The 19-year-old skated in 39 games in the KHL last season with Salavat Yulaev where he recorded nine goals and four assists.