Matthews practices with Maple Leafs but no return date set
Has missed nine games, says injured shoulder progressing 'quite well'by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent
Auston Matthews wore a non-contact jersey Sunday while taking in his first full practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs since injuring his left shoulder but said he's not ready to put a target date on his return to the lineup.
"I don't know, honestly. Kind of just taking it day by day," Matthews said. "It feels a lot better. I think it's progressed quite well. It's still not all there but hopefully it continues to progress, and I can get out there as soon as possible."
Matthews has missed the past nine games after sustaining the injury when he was hit by defenseman Jacob Trouba in a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 27. He wore a red non-contact jersey, did not partake in contact drills and skated as an extra during line rushes. He also sat out power play drills.
Coach Mike Babcock did not put a timeline on Matthews' return.
"He's got to work and get back in shape," Babcock said. "He's been able to skate the whole time, but until he's every day in here, I don't know when he's returning."
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The Maple Leafs initially said Matthews would miss a minimum of four weeks. When the Maple Leafs face the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 24, it will mark four weeks since the injury occurred.
The Maple Leafs gone 6-3-0, including sweeping their three-game California road trip last week for the first time since 1995, without Matthews.
Matthews said he will not rush back.
"You'll just know (when you're ready), I guess," Matthews said. "Taking contact, feeling back in game shape, being able to do a full practice, all that kind of stuff. A lot of protocol you have to go through. In all honesty, it doesn't really matter. I'm going to come back when I feel ready. It's great to see us getting a lot of wins though."
Matthews, who has 16 points (10 goals, six assists) in 11 games this season, had been skating on his own before joining his teammates at the morning skate before the Maple Leafs game against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. He said the pace of a full practice on Sunday was a bit of adjustment.
"It's obviously going to be tough on the lungs," Matthews said. "Just kind of getting back to the pace of play and getting a feel for the puck in that kind of setting. It's nice to be back out there with the guys. It beats skating by yourself all the time."
Matthews said a lot of his focus in practice will be on refining his shooting motion.
"It's not all there. The whole mechanics of it, the strength in the arm still coming back, it's not fully there," Matthews said. "Accuracy is a little off but I think that stuff will all come back pretty soon."