The Toronto Maple Leafs got some good news as star center Auston Matthews practiced with the team Sunday in a red non-contact jersey, suggesting that his return could come sooner than later, according to TSN’s Kristen Shilton. He has been out for three weeks and has already missed nine games after separating his shoulder during Toronto’s Oct. 27 game against Winnipeg.
“It feels a lot better,” Matthews said (via Shilton). “I think its progressed quite well. It’s still not all there, but hopefully it continues to progress and I get back out there as soon as possible.”
Matthews was seen taking part in a full practice, which included practicing his shot on both goaltenders, including Frederik Andersen and Garret Sparks. However, Matthews said that his shot still needs work.
“Not all there,” Matthews said. “Little mechanics of it, the strength in your arm is still coming back, not fully there. Accuracy is a little off, but I think all that stuff will come back soon.”
Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said there is no timetable yet for his return and can’t even really think about it until Matthews can be a full contributor in practice. Saturday will be four weeks, which was the minimum amount of time listed as a potential return, however, Matthews didn’t sound optimistic he’ll be ready to go at exactly the four-week point of the injury.
“I don’t know, honestly,” Matthews said. “Kind of just taking it day by day. Depends how I’m progressing.”
- Sticking with the Leafs, The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel (subscription required) wonders what might happen with Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. While the Maple Leafs have bigger worries amongst their own free agents, Gardiner has compiled quite a resume with the Maple Leafs over the years and is currently the 10th-highest scoring defenseman in Maple Leafs’ history. However, with the sudden improved play of Travis Dermott, the scribe wonders if Dermott could be a cheaper option for Toronto which could allow the team to avoid giving the 28-year-old a big payday which they likely can’t afford anyway. While inexperienced, he’s done an admirable job in his role that doesn’t include any power play time and he might be able to replace Gardiner completely within a year.
- The sudden loss of Patrice Bergeron has had a greater affect on the team than many have thought, writes The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required). The 33-year-old, who is considered day-to-day after taking a hard check from Dallas’ Radek Faksa, is the focal point to the Bruins offense and was missed Saturday, despite squeaking out a 2-1 victory. The scribe writes that Boston immediately broke up the first line without Bergeron in the lineup as Patrnak was teamed with David Krejci, while Marchand moved to the second line to work with Jake Debrusk. Regardless, the entire lineup was shaken without Bergeron, who may be the most valuable piece to their team.
- Max Bultman of The Athletic (subscription required) looks at the progress made by prospect Filip Zadina who is playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL who is starting to heat up. Zadina, the sixth-overall pick in this year’s draft, has been displaying confidence recently in Grand Rapids and the fact that he’s posted six goals in his past five games may have something to do with it. With the Red Wings playing well, Zadina will likely stay in Grand Rapids, but according to Griffins head coach Ben Simon, he has quite a bit to work on still. “That’s great to look at a box score and see, but if you’re a scout in the building or you’re a coach watching the game, there’s still a heck of a lot more room for improvement to get to the NHL for him,” Simon said. “Now, that being said, he has gotten a lot more confident, a lot more settled in with what this league’s all about. I think it took him a little bit of time to figure that out.