Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews tests positive for COVID-19

The Toronto Maple Leafs are anxiously awaiting the result of Auston Matthews’ PCR test, after he tested positive for COVID-19 with a rapid test prior to Monday’s practice.

The year got off to a positive start for Auston Matthews, after he was named the NHL’s First Star for the month of December. However, this was swiftly followed by some potentially bad news for the Toronto Maple Leafs star on Monday.

As reported by Sportsnet, Matthews tested positive after taking a COVID-19 rapid test. As a result, he was held out of practice for precautionary reasons.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe advised the four-time NHL All-Star is asymptomatic. The Leafs will now await the result of his PCR test on Tuesday morning, before determining if he needs to be placed in COVID protocol.

Assistant coach Dean Chynoweth also tested positive with a rapid test on Monday. Keefe spoke to the Toronto Sun‘s Lance Hornby and other members of the media about Matthews and Chynoweth:

“No symptoms for either guy,” Keefe said. “There have been instances where those rapid tests have been false. So, that’s why they were both (deemed) precautionary and removed from today. We’ll await confirmation in the morning.”

Assuming Matthews does receive a positive PCR test, it’s possible he will only miss Wednesday’s gave versus Edmonton as long as he remains asymptomatic. Monday’s contest against Carolina and Thursday’s trip to Montreal were both postponed by the NHL, due to Canadian attendance restrictions.

Of course, the main priority is that Matthews is healthy in general. He previously tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020, while at home in Arizona.

Due to the 24-year-old’s absence from practice on Monday, John Tavares moved up the top line to centre Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting. Alexander Kerfoot lined up between William Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev on the second unit.

Keefe discussed the lineup adjustments with the media following Monday’s practice. As per Sportsnet‘s Luke Fox, the Leafs head coach said:

“I didn’t give it a great deal of thought. I really just kind of defaulted to some of the things that we had done last season and we played without Auston. Bringing Kerfoot back into the middle keeps [third-line centre David] Kämpf and [fourth-line centre Jason] Spezza solid in their spots. Kerfoot has shown the ability to play centre and do a good job for us throughout the season. It keeps him and Willy together, and I think those guys have done a good job.”

The timing of Matthews’ positive rapid test is frustrating for the Leafs, given they appear to be over the worst of their COVID-19 outbreak. Only Timothy Liljegren missed Saturday’s game versus Ottawa, and the defenceman returned from COVID-19 protocol on Monday.

How concerned are you at this stage about the impact of COVID-19 on the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL in general? Do you expect the 2021-22 season to be completed successfully by the end of June? Let us know in the comments section below.