Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews isn’t doing so hot.
Matthews has no points in 15 shots across his last three games and is contending with a troublesome wrist injury that seems to be doing a number on his ability to put the puck away.
He missed two games after aggravating the injury February 24 against the Calgary Flames, a month removed from when he jammed it in the first place.
Prior to the injury, Matthews was lighting it up. He had 18 points in 19 games and now has 18 goals in 23 games for a total of 31 points this season.
Adjustments have been made by head coach Sheldon Keefe, who’s moved Matthews around on the power play to factor in the wrist injury. Without his ace shot on the man advantage, things have changed.
Toronto believes Matthews won’t be making the injury worse by playing through it, but the calendar is unkind.
“These games coming back, you’re playing quick,” said Matthews. “Every other day and stuff. You miss even a week, you’re missing three or four games and playing catch-up. I’m just trying to kind of find my rhythm back.”
The Maple Leafs hold the lead in the North Division with a 18-6-2 record, so they could afford to give Matthews some time off to nurse the wrist – especially when the schedule is crammed with back-to-backs.
For now, it’s a risk Toronto is willing to take.
“You know so he’s dealing with a couple things,” said Keefe. “He’s been dealing with the mental effect that not being 100 percent himself has on his game and then the fact he’s missed time. When you miss time you lose your rhythm and it throws you off a little bit. He’s found ways to generate chances and shots, he’s made plays for his linemates, so he’s bringing a lot of positive things to us and I think in time it’s the type of injury that will heal itself. He’s just got to work his way through it.”
Keefe added Matthews doesn’t seem to be struggling when it comes to moving or passing the puck, so he can contribute in other ways. He’s averaged 21:11 of ice time since returning from injury, down from the 21:54 he averaged in his first 20 games this season.
Up next, the Maple Leafs will tangle with the 15-8-1 Winnipeg Jets. They’ll be looking to get some momentum back after two losses to the Vancouver Canucks. As of press time, Matthews will be in the lineup.
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