Report: Leafs pump the brakes on Matthews’ return

Conflicting reports on the young superstar’s return confuse fans and media yesterday.

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Yesterday afternoon Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock deemed injured superstar Auston Matthews ready to return to action saying, “I think he’s playing right away.” Later in the afternoon Babcock had to walk back that statement and officially ruled Matthews out for this evening’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And according to a report from Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, the 20 year old Matthews is growing a little impatient sitting on the injured reserve. Directly from Fox’s report last night:

“Boring” is the adjective Matthews used to briskly sum up the past 26 days of his life, as he endures the third and longest break from action in this sophomore season.
Watch the 20-year-old’s mannerisms and listen to his answers Monday as he addressed local reporters after participating in a full-contact practice, then tell us this guy isn’t frustrated.

“I’m just trying to get back and play hockey,” says Matthews when asked when exactly he’ll return.

The Leafs have two HUGE tests coming up this week, first tonight against Tampa and then on Thursday against the Nashville Predators. Both the Lightning and the Preds lead their respective conferences, so the two games could act as an effective way for th eLeafs to currently gauge where they rank in the NHL’s hierarchy. 

Knowing where you stand, your strengths and weaknesses, is important for a team headed down the stretch and into the playoffs. The only thing more important? Health. The Leafs are hoping for that to improve down the stretch, as well.

Leafs demote Sparks to Marlies

The Toronto Maple Leafs have officially loaned goaltender Garret Sparks to the team’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

Sparks was initially recalled following Wednesday’s shootout victory over the Dallas Stars in which starting goaltender Frederik Andersen left the game with an “upper body injury”. Today’s news seems to signal that after taking the last two games off, Andersen is ready to return to action.

Unfortunately for Sparks he did not see any playing time during his brief recall. The 24-year-old goaltender has been absolutely fantastic with the Marlies this season, posting a remarkable 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage in 35 games. Together with partner Calvin Pickard, the duo comprise perhaps the strongest goaltender tandem in the AHL.

Sparks has spent his entire professional career in the Leafs organization after having been drafted by the team in the 7th round (190th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He has a 6-9-1 NHL record to go along with his 3.03 GAA and .893 save percentage in 17 NHL starts, all from the 2015-16 season.