I suppose every NHL team deals with injuries, but the Toronto Maple Leafs – who are leading the North Division standings – have suffered their fair share of injuries this season.
Both starting and backup goalies Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell have been out for extended periods. Joe Thornton’s had broken ribs. Jake Muzzin’s missed a week with a broken bone in his face. And that’s not all. Now we hear that Auston Matthews has been dealing with a bothersome wrist injury for most of the season.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll focus on some the injuries the team is facing. I’ll also look at the latest news about how the players are doing and whether and when they might return to game action.
Item One: Backup Goalie Jack Campbell Is Ready to Rock
In a bit of good news for the Maple Leafs, backup goalie Jack Campbell – who’s been out with a leg injury – seems ready to return to action. Although the Maple Leafs have yet to remove Campbell from the long term injury reserve, it’s a move that should happen soon.
Although Michael Hutchinson has been playing well in the place of both starter Frederik Andersen (who’s reported as day-to-day with a lower-body injury) and Campbell, it’s good to have Campbell back. Campbell had won both games he’d started this season before he was hurt against the Calgary Flames. His activation to the roster will move Hutchinson back down the depth chart.
Both Campbell and his head coach Sheldon Keefe had announced that the injured backup looked ready to play after Friday’s practice. Furthermore, Keefe noted that if no issues showed up after practice Campbell would likely start Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers.
Although I haven’t heard yet if Campbell feels good this morning, Maple Leafs’ fans should expect him to start Saturday. Campbell’s status should be confirmed just before the start of the game. It’s been a long time between starts, and I’m certain he’s anxious to play.
Item Two: Auston Matthews Is Injured But Might Play
After the game on Wednesday night, coach Keefe revealed that Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury that’s I’ve noticed during the past few games. However, what’s new is that Keefe announced that the wrist has bothered him – apparently – all season. That’s one reason John Tavares took the opening face-off and Matthews was with William Nylander after the team’s first change in overtime.
Keefe also announced that Matthews would continue a treatment routine and his injury would be monitored closely. Keefe also announced that the injury had not been aggravated during Wednesday’s game. When I hear that news, I have to believe we’ll see Matthews on Saturday playing against his old Oilers’ buddy Connor McDavid.
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In fact, after Wednesday’s win over the Flames, Keefe revealed that Matthews had been playing with the wrist issue all season. Thus, given his success dealing with the discomfort, it seems likely that Matthews will play Saturday. Still, it might be a game-time decision based upon the team’s concern that he might cause further damage.
No one in the organization would sacrifice the longer-term future for short-term success given the Maple Leafs’ current standing in the North Division standings.
Still, Matthews obviously seemed to be hurting during Wednesday’s game. What’s both interesting and impressive is to wonder how much of Matthews’ scoring rampage has occurred at a time when he’s been injured. He’s currently up to 18 goals during 20 games played this season, and he’s done it with a bad wrist?
On Wednesday, Matthews didn’t score a goal but he added two assists to his NHL season’s total – which puts him in third place in the scoring leadership board. He now has scored 31 points on the season, which ties him with the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and puts him one point ahead of teammate Mitch Marner.
After practice on Friday, coach Keefe noted “He’s day-to-day and not ruled out for tomorrow.”
[Since this post was pubished, Matthew has been ruled out of tonight’s game against the Oilers in Edmonton.]
Item Three: Jake Muzzin’s Return Saturday Is a Game-Time Call
Jake Muzzin, who suffered a broken bone in his face, might or might not play against the Oilers on Saturday in Edmonton. It’s a game-time decision.
Muzzin broke a bone in his face a week ago but participated in practice on Friday. After the practice, coach Keefe reported that Muzzin’s return to game action “looks positive.”
Still, the Maple Leafs’ coach is hedging his bets and hasn’t confirmed any lineup decision. That will happen closer to game time.
Muzzin hasn’t played since Feb. 20 and was wearing a full-face shield during practice. It’s good news that he’s likely to play. Still, the Maple Leafs defense stood the test against Calgary on Wednesday so his absence has been covered by others. The team has depth.
Item Four: Joe Thornton’s Also a Game-time Decision
Joe Thornton, who’s suffering from a lower-body injury, will also be a game-time decision for Saturday’s game against the Oilers. Still, if practice is any indication, Thornton looks as if he should play. He was a full participant during Friday’s practice session. My call is that he’ll play.
The NHL veteran, who’s brought leadership and good play – especially recently – to the team, has scored nine points in the nine games he’s played this campaign. First, he was out with broken ribs; now, he’s missed the team’s past two games with this lower-body injury.
After Friday’s practice, Thornton reported that he was “feeling really good.” Again coach Keefe wouldn’t confirm final decisions about the team’s lineup, which makes Thornton’s return – positive or not – a game-time decision.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs
It’s good for the team if Campbell can return to game action, although Hutchinson has played far better than most Maple Leafs’ fans had expected. Now the team awaits Andersen’s return from his lower-body injury.
Recent news hints that his return might be imminent. He’ll travel with the team, coach Keefe noted. He was also on the ice before Friday’s practice. Still, it was the Campbell and Hutchinson duo who participated during practice.
Although Andersen won’t return on Saturday, I’m thinking it matters that he traveled with the team. It’s a positive sign for his return. We’ll see.