Leafs beat Isles, but lose star Matthews to injury

Leafs beat Isles, but lose star Matthews to injury

The Maple Leafs are in the thick of the playoff race.

Two things came to mind at Leafs practice Friday, knowing star centre Auston Matthews will likely miss two important games against division rivals with a shoulder injury.

"It's called "trade" - so it's not like Christmas where someone drops off gifts", said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. "He's hurt and it gives him a chance to get freshened up". "We'll see what can help us the best, whoever gets in, you just have to grab it and play real well". Matthews' shoulder took a jolt in Thursday's game when he was crunched between Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech and forward Cal Clutterbuck. As my colleague Nick Kypreos reported Friday afternoon, there's a belief that Matthews will be able to return to the lineup well ahead of the playoffs. "We have to be dialled in, ready to go".

The coach also said Matthews's status is officially "day-to-day", which in the Babcock translation manual usually means seven to 10 days.

Babcock largely chose to shift veteran Patrick Marleau to the middle during the 10 games without Matthews in November and December, and expressed hope that the Nylander experiment might last longer this time around. Babcock said, when asked what he told Matthews. I can't remember what happened. "It's hockey, you're going to get bumped into. Some years you're luckier than others".

"He's an incredible player", Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen said.

"He's an unbelievable player, hope he isn't out too long, but believe we have a deep enough team to remain competitive if everyone does their job", goaltender Frederik Andersen said. His departure from the lineup will result in a shifting of lines.

"I've been in this situation before, it's nothing new", Leivo said. "I've been doing the same thing every day for eight weeks now, but I have to be ready". I think there'll be some good karma my way. A centre's got to be good every night.

Marleau's regular line with Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner remains intact; Leivo and Martin could be fill-ins on the fourth line, with Dominic Moore and Leo Komarov.

The personable winger took reps both 5x5 and on the powerplay Friday, which was a promising sign that he will get a long awaited crack at a game.

Toronto is one point back of Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs, with 81 points, are one behind the second-place Bruins, who have five games in hand on them, and four behind the Lightning, who have two games in hand. The "winner" in this unfortunate circumstance is Josh Leivo, taking Matthews' lineup spot for his first game in the calendar year 2018 and just his 13th game this season. The Bruins handily out-skated and out-muscled them in winning 4-1 in Boston on February 3. On Dec. 9, Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly in a game against Pittsburgh.

"We see where we want to be in the standings and know these are two teams in the way of that". [The Bruins] are playing well and they're making a push.

"They've got to play 200 feet and they've got to compete". Get to work. Get to work and get back as fast as you can.

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