Auston Matthews could be in line to end a six-game absence with what he candidly admitted were “normal concussion symptoms” when his Toronto Maple Leafs visit the New York Rangers on Saturday. Matthews was able to skate with his teammates on Friday, marking a favorable change to the outlook of the reigning Calder Memorial Trophy recipient.
“No decision is going to be made until (Saturday) but I am definitely feeling a lot better, feeling good out there on the ice, just trying to get my legs back,” the 20-year-old Matthews told reporters on Friday. “Nice to get back out there with the whole team and get skating again. (It was) a high pace of practice, it’s fun being out there with more people than just myself.” The Maple Leafs fell to 2-4-0 in his absence and 0-4-0 in their last four road games following a 4-2 setback at Columbus on Wednesday. The Rangers saw their three-game winning streak halted with a 4-3 shootout loss at New Jersey on Thursday. Kevin Hayes scored in back-to-back contests to extend his point streak to four games (three goals, one assist), and he had an assist in an 8-5 setback in Toronto on Oct. 7.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, CBC (Toronto), MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (21-14-1): Mitch Marner has scored in back-to-back contests and has five points (two goals, three assists) in that span to light a spark under fellow third-liners Tyler Bozak and James van Riemdsyk. “Our last two games, that’s a start for us,” the 20-year-old Marner said. “... I think just in general our line has our confidence back, we’re playing the way we were last year and I think we’re getting back to that now.” Bozak, who scored in the first encounter versus New York, has one goal and four assists in his last two games and van Riemsdyk scored a goal and set up two others in Tuesday afternoon’s 8-1 rout of Carolina.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (19-12-4): Madison Square Garden has been a safe haven for New York, which has outscored the opposition 56-30 en route to posting a 12-1-1 mark in its last 14 home games. Henrik Lundqvist has benefited from the offensive surge, netting an 11-0-0 record with one shutout, a 2.12 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in his last 12 home appearances. Lundqvist hopes that bit of home cooking will serve him well versus Toronto, against which he was shredded for five goals in the first period before earning the early shower in the first encounter.
1. New York RW Jesper Fast will miss two-to-three weeks with a quad injury, the team announced Friday.
2. Toronto G Frederik Andersen has split six decisions this month despite sporting an impressive .942 save percentage.
3. With a win, the Rangers’ Alain Vigneault could tie Darryl Sutter for 11th place on the NHL’s all-time coaching list.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 5, Rangers 3