Auston Matthews Set to Return to Maple Leafs Lineup Against Blackhawks

The Toronto Maple Leafs' head coach Sheldon Keefe has confirmed that Auston Matthews is returning to the lineup on Feb. 15, 2023, against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Matthews has been sidelined for three weeks with a knee sprain that he suffered against the New York Rangers on Jan. 25. Toronto had an extended break during that time with the All-Star game and their team's bye week, which was the perfect time for him to recover. The Maple Leafs were without him for only five games, where they went 2-3.

Toronto has three games against two bottom-feeder teams in the next five nights. They play the aforementioned Blackhawks tonight, who currently sit 31st in the NHL. They face their bitter rival, the Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada on Feb. 18, 2023, they sit 26th in the NHL. Toronto then faces Chicago again on Feb. 19, to finish off their back-to-back. These are three games that should be won by the Leafs, unfortunately, they do have the tenacity to struggle against inferior opponents. 

The 25-year-old has 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in 47 games this season. He is coming off his 60-goal season last year and hopes to use the remainder of the season to heat up as the club prepares for the playoffs. He will return to his regular spot on the Leafs' lineup, on the top line with William Nylander and Michael Bunting. With that Alex Kerfoot remains on the second line with Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Calle Järnkrok bumps down to the third line to help the struggling duo of Pierre Engvall and David Kampf.

As previously mentioned, the Leafs are preparing for the playoffs and will need all hands on deck as their first-round opponent appears to be set in stone. The Tampa Bay Lightning have moved into a tie with Toronto for second in the Atlantic Division. Although this playoff series has been almost guaranteed to happen since Dec. of 2022, both teams will be making a push for home-ice advantage. With the Mar. 3 NHL trade deadline a little over two weeks away, Toronto and Tampa will be looking to upgrade their rosters before they square off in a best-of-seven first-round series.

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