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Matthews 'skating at another level' for Maple Leafs, Babcock says

Center 'really in shape' after missing 20 games because of injuries last season

by Sean McCullen @McBrooklyn77 / NHL.com Staff Writer

Auston Matthews is back to full speed for training camp after an injury-plagued 2017-18 season, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.

"He's skating at another level," Babcock told the Maple Leafs website Sunday after they concluded three days of camp at Niagara Falls. "I think he's really in shape. He feels good about himself. He put in a lot of work this summer."

The 21-year-old center missed four games with a back injury Nov. 8-16, six games because of a concussion Dec. 10-20 and 10 games with a shoulder injury Feb. 24-March 20.

When Toronto was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference First Round by the Boston Bruins, Matthews played six shifts for 4:05 in the second period. He was noticeably unhappy on the bench in the third, when he played 8:16 and the Maple Leafs allowed four goals in the 7-4 loss.

"Obviously, (he) wasn't happy with how it ended, but he got hurt three times last year and that affected anyway you look at it his ability to stay fit, especially with the injuries he had," Babcock said.

Matthews had two points (one goal, one assist) and a minus-4 rating in the Boston series after he had 63 points (34 goals, 29 assists) and a plus-25 rating in 62 regular-season games.

In late April, Matthews and Babcock each denied a reported rift between them. Babcock met with Matthews at the center's Arizona home a few weeks later and said afterward that they are "in it together."

Matthews will not play when the Maple Leafs face the Ottawa Senators in a preseason game in Lucan, Ontario, for Kraft Hockeyville Canada 2018 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS). Toronto has announced center John Tavares will make his Maple Leafs debut in the game.

Matthews is expected to play on a line with Patrick Marleau and William Nylander, who remains unsigned as a restricted free agent. Tavares, who signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with Toronto on July 1 after nine seasons with the New York Islanders, will play with Zach Hyman and Mitchell Marner, Babcock has said.

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