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Matthews says he hates losing, frustrated with play of Maple Leafs

Center, teammates preach accountability on defense after losing three of four

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

TORONTO -- Auston Matthews is ready to put a poor stretch of hockey by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the past.

"You don't want to lose, I hate losing, everybody doesn't want to lose," the center said after practice on Thursday. "You're frustrated but it's still early."

Heading into their game against the San Jose Sharks at Scotiabank Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN1, NBCSCA, NHL.TV), the Maple Leafs have lost three of their past four (1-2-1), including a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday in which they were outshot 39-30 and gave up two goals in the third period.

 

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Matthews attributed some of the struggles to the fact that the Maple Leafs have between seven and nine players in the lineup that weren't there last season, but also said that everyone needs to raise their game.

"We've still got new guys," Matthews said. "We're still trying to mesh as a team and come together but when you look at the guys we have, we expect a lot of each other so it's just holding one another accountable and putting the past in the past and putting our best foot forward."

The biggest issue the Maple Leafs have faced lately has been insufficient play in their defensive zone. They have allowed 15 goals in their past four games and Matthews, who has three points (one goal, two assists) in his past four games, admitted that he and his teammates must improve in that facet of the game.

"Defensively and in all areas," Matthews said, when asked where he can be better. "Obviously I want to put the puck in the net and create on offense but it starts in the D-zone. That's an area we've been trying to work on lately, especially today at practice. I've got to be better in that area moving forward."

Discipline has also been a focus for the Maple Leafs, who have taken 19 minor penalties over the past four games, leading to four power-play goals against and a goal against on a penalty shot. Matthews said it is on the players to hold themselves accountable.

"We're a family here but sometimes you have to yell at your family," Matthews said. "That's an area, discipline, that has been killing us the last three or four games. Within our group we know we have to be better in that area."

Video: TOR@BOS: Pastrnak goes between his legs for PPG

The Maple Leafs (5-4-2), who have been without captain John Tavares (broken finger) since Oct. 17, are third in the Atlantic Division and defenseman Jake Muzzin said he understands the anxiousness of the fan base. However, he agreed with Matthews that the team is working through the early stages of incorporating new players into the lineup.

"Maybe sometimes it takes a little longer than everyone is expecting it to, boom, happen, it's tough," Muzzin said. "There're other good teams out there. When you have new faces playing new systems, sometimes there are miscues. But we're working it out, we'll be alright."

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