Maple Leafs Matthews skates with front row screening in training
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews skated with forwards Mitch Marner and newcomer Nick Ritchie in practice Thursday, giving a glimpse of the team’s potential first line when the team begins the regular season in October. .
Matthews skated with his teammates for the first time on Tuesday. He underwent surgery last month on a wrist injury that plagued him for much of the 2020-21 season. On Thursday, the team raced online with Matthews for the first time.
“(He) continues to grow, but the fact that we’ve seen him come out every day without a setback is a really good thing,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Matthews.
It’s not clear if Matthews will be in the Maple Leafs roster when they face the Montreal Canadiens on October 13. He has yet to participate in contact exercises in training.
Throughout training camp, Adam Brooks served as Matthews’ replacement as a center on the line until Matthews returned on Thursday.
“It’ll be a lot better when Auston is in this place in my place,” Brooks said with a smile.
In the presence of Matthews, assistant coach Spencer Carbery worked with the Leafs’ four main forwards, Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander for power-play work with defenseman Morgan Rielly. The five skaters spent time together on the power play last season, most notably in 5v3 situations. In charge of the power play duties this season, Carbery has Marner in the fender position with Nylander and Matthews at. the wing and Tavares to the net.
“I think he just wants to try to use all of our collective abilities as best we can,” Tavares said of Carbery. “I think we want to have the flexibility to adapt to the penalty shootout like the penalty shootout adapts to us. “
Toronto’s power play got off to a flying start last season, but fizzled out. The problems continued into the playoffs where they went to just 3 of 23 (13 percent).
With Marner in the bumper for the first time in his NHL career, he watched a video of Brayden Point and how he handles the position with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The idea with Marner in the middle is that his playmaker ability can be spread across the ice.
“Hopefully that brings some guys up to me and leaves the air open and for penalty kill purposes make it harder for that kind of murder against us and not know who to take,” Marner said. “We’ll see though, we’ll have to continue to feel. I think a good thing is just to use our creativity there.”
The power play will get a lot of practice on Friday when the team hosts an intra-team game at Scotiabank Arena. They will spend the entire third period working on special teams. Each team will have five power play opportunities.