The Toronto Maple Leafs can point to the loss of key players as one of the reasons why they are outside of a playoff spot at the NHL All-Star break, but leading scorer Auston Matthews indicated during his media availability in St. Louis that he expects to be ready for action when the Leafs resume action in Nashville on Monday.
“I can’t really pinpoint (when it happened), but this has been kind of going on and nagging for two or three weeks. I’m hoping this week off and these extra two or three days can kind of help it. I’m still planning on playing next week.” Matthews said. “It’s just one of those things that’s nagging every time you’re stickhandling (and) shooting.”
Toronto has endured the loss of center John Tavares, wingers Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, Ilya Mikheyev, and defenseman Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly, but with 33 games left and trailing third place in the Atlantic and could hardly handle the loss of Matthews, who leads the club with 34 goals and is second in the NHL behind Boston’s David Pastrnak in goals.
“Getting a couple of extra days to heal and rest is important. This is an important part of the season and that time is valuable to get healthy and move on.” Matthews said. “You want to compete out there and participate, but in the grand scheme of things, the important games are the ones (with the Leafs) in the regular season.”
Jake Muzzin is slated to play one of two weekend games for the Toronto Marlies in Cleveland and if all goes well, the veteran defenseman could be back in the lineup against the Predators, who are also outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference at the break.
Leafs All-Stars Mitch Marner and Frederik Andersen will be busy in the Skills Competition on Friday. Marner will be one of 10 players, including former London Knights linemate Matthew Tkachuk, Pastrnak, Patrick Kane, and Blues hometown favorites Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron competing in the “Shooting Stars” contest, firing pucks from the stands onto the ice, while Andersen and the seven other goalies from the four division squads will compete in the “Save Streak”.
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