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Matthews, Muzzin expected to play for Maple Leafs against Predators

Forward did not participate in All-Star Game because of right wrist, defenseman has missed 10 games with broken foot

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Auston Matthews and Jake Muzzin are expected to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they face the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-TN, TSN4, NHL.TV).

Matthews, who was named to his fourth All-Star Game but did not play because of an ailing right wrist, was in St. Louis this weekend and wore a wrist brace while visiting with all-star teammates Frederik Andersen and Mitchell Marner on Friday.

Although the forward said that his wrist is not 100 percent, he said he could feel improvement during Toronto's practice in Nashville on Sunday.

"I feel good," Matthews said. "I feel a lot better than the previous week, so all signs point towards playing tomorrow. I thought today's practice was a good sign."

So did Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe.

"Based on how he looked on the ice today and my conversation with him, I would say (I have) a low level of concern for him," Keefe said. "The time away seemed to help and it's looking like he's ready to play."

Matthews leads the Maple Leafs in goals (34) and points (57) in 49 games. He is on pace for 57 goals this season, which would make him the fourth player in Toronto history to score at least 50, joining Rick Vaive (54 in 1981-82, 51 in 1982-83 and 52 in 1983-84), Gary Leeman (51 in 1989-90) and Dave Andreychuk (53 in 1993-94).

Video: NJD@TOR: Matthews nets Marner one-timer off the rush

Muzzin hasn't played since breaking his foot against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 27, missing the past 10 games with Toronto going 4-3-3 in that stretch.

"No, it's ready to go," the defenseman said about whether there was any lingering pain. "Just excited to be back with the guys."

The return of Muzzin, who has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 38 games this season, is an important boost for Toronto, which is without Morgan Rielly for a minimum of eight weeks because of a fractured foot.

Video: SJS@TOR: Muzzin ties the game before the buzzer

"It means a great deal, both in his place on the ice and in terms of his voice amongst our team," Keefe said. "In many ways, he's the conscience of our team. (He) speaks a lot, has great presence and great experience. 

"He means so much on our back end."

The Maple Leafs (25-17-7), who entered the All-Star break 1-3-2 in their past six games, are four points behind the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division, and four behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"There's a lot of good things we've been doing," Muzzin said. "We've just got to tighten up some things defensively and I think we'll be OK. That's the gist of it, I think."

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