Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, the NHL’s second-leading goal-scorer this season, is expected to miss at least four weeks because of an injured left shoulder.
The 21-year-old center was placed on injured reserve Monday but will not need surgery. He was injured early in the second period Saturday during Toronto’s 3-2 victory over Winnipeg.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to get back as soon as possible.”
Based on a minimum four-week timeline, Matthews will miss at least 13 games, with his earliest possible return Nov. 26, when Boston plays at Toronto.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba delivered a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check as Matthews tried to cut in front of the net. Matthews skated to the bench, favoring his left side before heading to the locker room.
“I knew the guy was coming,” Matthews said. “(I was) trying to get a shot off, but you don’t really know what to expect because you’re so close to the goalie. He took body, which is what you’re supposed to do, and just caught me on a weird angle.”
This month, Matthews became the third player in NHL history with seven straight multipoint games to start a season. He has 10 goals, tied for second most in the league. He is tied for sixth with 16 points
Matthews played all 82 games in his rookie season before sitting out 20 times in 2017-18 with various injuries.
“You want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Watching the game is probably the worst part. (Not) being around your teammates, being a part of something, I think that’s kind of the hardest thing.”
Coach Mike Babcock, whose team was 8-3-0 entering Monday night’s game against Calgary, said he talked with Matthews about how best to deal with the setback.
“Be around the group, do what you do, train real hard,” the coach said. “Be better when you come back than you were.”
Matthews suffered the same injury to his right shoulder last February and missed 10 games — the third time he was out following back and concussion problems. Still, he finished second on the team in goals (34) and points (63).
“He did a ton of work this summer on his shoulders to make sure he was a stronger,” Babcock said. “These things happen. It’s too bad for the kid and yet it’s an opportunity for someone on our team to play more. It’s an opportunity for us to dig in and continue to get better.”
With Matthews out, No. 3 center Nazem Kadri has been reunited with wingers Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau — a trio that had much success in the second half of last season.
“My game doesn’t change,” Kadri said. “I’ve got to be responsible defensively and have that offensive flair, especially with the guys I’m playing with.”
The newly formed line of John Tavares, Zach Hyman and Kasperi Kapanen rounds out Toronto’s top six forwards.
The Maple Leafs are also without winger William Nylander, who was supposed to play alongside Matthews and Marleau. The restricted free agent is trying to work out a new contract.
Babcock said that for now Toronto wouldn’t be calling up an extra forward from the American Hockey League.
“Everyone’s got to pick up the slack,” Kadri said. “I don’t think it falls on the shoulders of one specific player. Collectively as a group everybody can do a little bit more. We have the depth to temporarily fix the situation.”
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