EDMONTON — The NHL’s top goal-scorer could make his return to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup when they take on the Edmonton Oilers in the final of three-game set at Rogers Place on Wednesday.
Matthews, who missed the last two games with a wrist injury, skated on the team’s top line with Joe Thornton and Mitch Marner during practice on Tuesday.
“It’s feeling a lot better, day-by-day it’s progressed,” Matthews told reporters via Zoom. “The plan is to see how it feels tomorrow and go from there.”
Matthews has 18 goals in 20 games and leads the next best player, Oilers forward Connor McDavid, who has 14 tallies.
Before the team’s current road trip, Matthews missed one game with a similar issue. It was also against the Oilers on Jan. 22. The team hasn’t missed a step without their star in the lineup, defeating the Oilers in all three games he’s missed and have outscored them by a combined 11-2 margin.
Despite the luxury of time with the Leafs dominating the North Division and 17-4-2 record, Matthews is eager to return.
“Hopefully, it just continues to heal and continues to get better and we’ll see how it is tomorrow,” Matthews said. “But, I’d love to get back in the game.
The Leafs could also see Frederik Andersen make his return.
Out of action for the last four games with a lower-body injury, the team’s starting goaltender saw a lot of reps at practice and looked comfortable in the butterfly and reverse-VH positions while taking shots.
“Frederik Andersen had a positive day and that’s a great thing for us, obviously,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We’ll have to see how he is tomorrow and make a determination from there.”
Andersen is 11-3-2 with a .905 save percentage this season. His backups have been exceptional with Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson each recording a shutout against the Oilers on Saturday and Monday, respectively.
Campbell, who missed Wednesday’s game due to a re-aggravation of a leg injury that kept him out for over a month, didn’t take part during the team’s formal practice, but emerged at the end of the session to take shots from players.
Campbell will not be available on Wednesday, according to Keefe.
William Nylander missed practice for what the team called a maintenance day.
“He always had something that he’s been managing and playing through here and we just wanted to give him the day to let that settle down.”
Nylander has scored four goals in his last three games.
Nic Petan skated on the wing as a placeholder for Nylander alongside John Tavares and Alex Kerfoot at practice.
One of the things we expected to see with a division-only alignment was tempers flaring with each meeting. During the final minute of Monday’s game, Toronto’s Travis Dermott and Edmonton’s Josh Archibald engaged in a fight that looked more like a wrestling match.
As practice concluded, experienced fighters Zach Bogosian and Scott Sabourin helped Dermott with his technique.
With the Oilers firing blanks in consecutive games, it’s clear Toronto is expecting some sort of retribution and Dermott is preparing for anything, it seems.