The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without Auston Matthews for at least three weeks due to a knee injury, the team announced on Friday. Matthews, the 2021-22 Hart Trophy winner, suffered a knee sprain in the Maple Leafs' 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Through 47 games this season, Matthews has recorded 25 goals and 28 assists. It is stating the obvious that this will be a huge loss for Toronto.
However, if Matthews is forced to miss a few weeks, this is the ideal point in the season for it. The All-Star break is the first weekend of February, and the Maple Leafs get a bye week immediately after that. Because of those lengthy gaps in the schedule, Toronto is slated to play just six games between now and Feb. 16, which would be three weeks from when the team announced Matthews' absence.
Four of those games come against teams that currently sit in the bottom 10 of the NHL standings, including two matchups with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who sit in last place. The first two games after Matthews is slated to return are against two more bottom-feeders in the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens, so it wouldn't be a catastrophe if Matthews needed a few extra days to get fully healthy.
Matthews was supposed to compete in the 2023 NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 4, but his injury opened up an Atlantic Division roster spot. The NHL has announced that Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov will replace Matthews at the event. That means Barkov will now get to compete in front of his home crowd at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla.