Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews is about to do something he’s never done thus far in his career: he’s going to miss a game due to injury.
Matthews is listed as day-to-day and he’ll miss Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild due to an upper body injury.
“Sometimes you get bumped or you get hacked and things happen,” Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate on Wednesday.
Matthews skated all 82 games last season for the Maple Leafs and managed 69 points in his Calder-winning debut. He leads the club in scoring this season with 19 points in 16 games.
On Monday, Matthews played over 21 minutes despite “soreness.”
He stated that he’d been dealing with a lingering injury, something he aggravated on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. He wasn’t at practice on Tuesday, which leads us to Wednesday and the news that he’s going to sit.
Without a doubt, the absence of the 20-year-old for even a game will make a difference. That’s not to say that it’s time to panic if you’re a Toronto fan, but a team losing its leading scorer for a single contest has to make some adjustments on the fly.
In the case of the Maple Leafs, that means Patrick Marleau will shift to centre between Zach Hyman and James van Riemsdyk. It also means Nazem Kadri could see a boost through the depth chart, while Mitchell Marner may be called on to slip in if Matthews happens to be out longer than a game.
Connor Brown may see more minutes on the power play with Matthews out.
Now, the Maple Leafs have plenty of scoring depth and should be able to contend with any “adversity” brought about by a brief Matthews absence. They’re currently second overall in goals-per-game and have an incredibly efficient power play, so one could argue that this is as good a time as any to test the team’s mettle.
And one could also argue the Maple Leafs, who are second in the Atlantic Division but six points behind the surging Tampa Bay Lightning, could use this as an opportunity to see what other combinations work.
The point here is that losing Matthews, even for a game, stinks. But it’s not the end of the world for these Maple Leafs, who have the depth and capacity to deal with it.