Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews waiting for green light to return

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07: Auston Matthews
TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07: Auston Matthews /

After participating in his first full-contact practice, Auston Matthews says he is ready to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup as long as the medical staff clears him.

The news Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been waiting for, Auston Matthews has been on the ice the past couple of days without the red non-contact jersey but still needed more time to be sure he was 100 per cent ready to go.

After being a full participant in practice on Tuesday, the Leafs centre said he is ready to play on Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks as long as the medical staff gives him the green to play. It would be his first game since Oct. 27 when he collided with Jacob Trouba forcing him to miss a month of action.

It is not like the team desperately needs Matthews to return as they are 9-5 with him out of the lineup and have scored 47 goals (fifth best in the NHL) and allowed 30 goals (fourth best in the NHL) over that stretch.

While some may be asking the Leafs to remain cautious with their franchise centre, if he feels ready to play and the medical staff is confident he can go back in then why should he sit out? A player like him doesn’t like to sit in the press box and doesn’t deserve to especially when they’re up for a contract extension.

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When it comes to who Matthews will play with, that’s a different story since the team has enjoyed success with Nazem Kadri playing in his spot with Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen.

It would make sense for Kapanen and Matthews to be reunited and keep Marleau and Kadri together and split up the third line by having Johnsson play with Matthews and Connor Brown join with Kadri.

The real question then becomes who sits out on the fourth line and it could be either Frederik Gauthier or Josh Leivo since Tyler Ennis has played well this month.

At this point getting Matthews back should give Mike Babcock a problem most coaches in the NHL would probably want especially if William Nylander is signed. This will be an important stretch of games for players to show that they deserve to stay in the lineup otherwise they will be up in the press box.

Next. Marc Savard comments on Nylander situation. dark

Who excited are you about Matthews potentially returning and how do you think the lineup will change? Let us know in the comments below.