Leafs: COVID-19 looms over Matthews vs. McDavid showdown

The Toronto Maple Leafs versus Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Arena is usually one of the most anticipated games on the NHL schedule, but COVID-19 has impacted this season’s showdown.

If ever there was a game to summarise the current challenges facing the NHL — and professional sports in general — it is Wednesday’s contest between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. COVID-19 looms large over what is usually one of the most anticipated showdowns on the schedule.

For a start, as per CBC, the Ontario government last week announced the capacity for indoor sporting events can now only be 1,000 people or 50 per cent, whichever is less. As a result, there will be no fans in attendance at Scotiabank Arena for the matchup between the Leafs and Oilers.

This is because Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment advised there will be no sold tickets until the province reassesses restrictions. (This review is set to take place within the next three weeks.)

If nothing else, at least the contest is still taking place, unlike some of the Leafs’ other recent fixtures. They have already had two games postponed this week by the NHL, due to Canadian attendance restrictions.

Understandably, there are a lot of fans who would prefer the game wasn’t taken place, and not just because they cannot attend. In addition, there is a strong possibility one or both of Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid will be unable to play.

Starting with Matthews, he tested positive for COVID-19 with a rapid test on Monday. As a result, he was held out of practice as a precautionary measure.

As per Sportsnet, Matthews’ PCR test came back negative on Tuesday, but he again did not practice. He is asymptomatic, but no decision will be made on his status for Wednesday’s game until the Leafs receive the result of further testing.

If the four-time NHL All-Star is unable to play, John Tavares is expected to move up the top line to centre Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting. Alexander Kerfoot would then line up between William Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev on the second unit.

Meanwhile, McDavid was held out of practice on Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19. As per Jack Michaels of 630 CHED, the superstar centre will be re-tested on Wednesday.

Certainly it would be a great shame if Matthews and/or McDavid are unable to play at the Scotiabank Arena. However, we appreciate what is most important is that both individuals are healthy in general.

How confident are you that the NHL will be able to complete the 2021-22 season successfully by the end of June? Let us know in the comments section below.