It looks like the injury news coming out of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is getting worse by the minute. Already having lost Joe Thornton to what might be a long-term injury, there’s speculation Auston Matthews may miss Friday’s rematch against the Edmonton Oilers. Matthews was forced to leave practice early for the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
Matthews took part in a few minutes of practice Thursday but ulimately left and reports that he was under the weather. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports that it’s not deemed to be an “injury” but says Toronto could be missing two-thirds of their top line on Friday. Johnston called Matthews situation a lot more fluid and that it was a good sign he tried to suit up for Thursday’s skate. It’s not a lock that he’ll miss the game, whereas for Thornton, it’s a matter of how many weeks the veteran will be out of the lineup.
Johnston said at this point nothing is too settled but that there could be a complete reimagining of the entire forward lineup for the Maple Leafs, as well as some changes on defense because the team was rolling with an extra blueliner in an attempt to give rookie Mikko Lehtonen more of a look.
This Is Not Good News for the Leafs
The news that Matthews is questionable for Friday doesn’t just affect the top line. The Leafs are so close to the salary cap ceiling that any major change affects the taxi squad, the active roster and the line combinations.
Johnston notes that if Matthews can’t go, the John Tavares line will probably become the top line for the Leafs against the Oilers in their rematch. Johnston got the sense that how the Leafs maneuvered through practice might have no bearing on what the lines actually look like. Toronto will wait to see what comes of the Matthews news and will make a decision based on that.
Tentatively, Johnston suggests the line changes could be:
The good news for Leafs fans is that this likely isn’t a long-term issue for Matthews, that is, assuming this is not much more than him not feeling well.
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