Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews out for Game 6: What we hear about his injury and schedule

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to win another game without Auston Matthews to extend their season and give their leading scorer a chance to recover enough to return.

Whether that could happen in Game 7, should the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins on Thursday, has yet to be determined.

According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the Leafs are taking a day-by-day approach to Matthews' recovery. He has not yet been ruled out for anything beyond Game 6, but he is clearly dealing with the significant issue of missing two potential playoff games.

One source familiar with the matter said Matthews playing a potential Game 7 is unlikely. Another said the team was unsure at this point.

Given the highly confidential nature of how teams operate during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's difficult to get specific details about Matthews' illness.

The 26-year-old is known to have played while sick in Games 3 and 4 of the series before suffering the injury from an innocuous hit while playing while sick, according to sources. Team doctors removed Matthews from the lineup during the second intermission of Game 4 and he has not been able to participate in a full team skate since.

While Matthews has been on the ice practicing each of the past three days — going through a 30-minute session with members of the player development staff at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday morning — one source said it will be “reckless” for him to try to play through whatever is holding him back. .

In a video filmed by The Hockey News during Thursday's session, Matthews can be seen performing drills where he guides pucks and carries, fires passes and takes one-timers. He also skated a lot more than he did during a short on-ice session at TD Garden before Game 5 on Tuesday morning.

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It seemed like progress.

The Leafs extended their season without him in the lineup with a 2-1 overtime win on Tuesday in Boston. Max Domi took Matthews' place on the top line between Mitch Marner and Tyler Bertuzzi and went 12-2 at the faceoff point while receiving the assist.

“The domes went up,” said teammate Matthew Kniss, who had the overtime winner for Toronto. “I think guys like that can step up and play in these roles. I think we collectively played a team game and found a way to win.

Added Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe: “It's a piece of human nature. You realize everyone has to be better (when they miss a player of that caliber).”

Earlier in the series, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery praised Matthews' work ethic and called him the most dangerous man on the ice. That was the day after he scored the winning goal and added two assists in Toronto's Game 2 win at TD Garden.

“Best scorer in the league since he came in,” Montgomery said Thursday morning. “A great player. But they played great without him in the last match.”

The Leafs played just one game without Matthews during the regular season — beating Pittsburgh 7-0 on Dec. 16 while he was out sick — and have never seen him miss a playoff game during his eight-year NHL career.

It's been a tough series on the health front for Toronto, which didn't have William Nylander for the first three games due to an undisclosed issue after seeing him available for every game in the regular season.

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Winger Bobby McMahon also did not play at all against the Bruins due to a lower-body injury suffered on April 13.

But the most irreplaceable player in the Leafs lineup is undoubtedly Matthews, coming off a 69-goal season. The team has scored just nine goals in the five-game series, though Boston isn't taking anything too seriously.

“It was like Nylander was off the field,” Bruins defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “Maybe it changes the dynamic of their team. But they're all powerful weapons. Auston is definitely the most dangerous guy on the ice when he's out there. But I don't think their style of play has changed as much as it did last game. As a whole, they were just desperate.”

“If he had been in the lineup, it would have probably been more.”

Unfortunately for the Leafs, they may need to get used to playing without him to turn this into an extended playoff run.

(Photo: Klaus Andersen/Getty Images)

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