Matthews left wrist getting better for Maple Leafs

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GRAVENHURST, Ontario — Auston Matthews said his left wrist is improving and remains hopeful of playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their season opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 13.

“It’s getting better,” the forward said Thursday. “There’s been good days and bad days, ones where it didn’t feel as good as I like. Today it felt pretty good, so hopefully it’s just positive steps moving forward here as time goes by.”

Matthews, who was expected to be out a minimum of six weeks after having surgery Aug. 13, joined the main group for the first time at training camp on Sept. 28 and has been participating in the majority of team drills since then, including plenty of work on the power play.

However, he was noncommittal when asked if he would play in the Maple Leafs’ final preseason game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

“That might be cutting it a little bit close right now, but I guess you never know what could happen,” he said. “I guess we’ll see.”

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On Wednesday, Matthews’ wrist did not hamper his golf stroke during a three-day team visit to Gravenhurst, which is about 105 miles north of Toronto. He proudly announced that he was part of the winning team, captained by defenseman Jake Muzzin, and was swinging normally.

Then today, he took part in what coach Sheldon Keefe said was his most grueling on-ice workout yet since the start of training camp.

The good news for the Maple Leafs: Matthews came out no worse for wear.

“He’s had no setbacks and continues to push,” Keefe said. “Today’s would have been by far the longest session that he’s had, and obviously he was there right until the end. In fact, I saw him out there doing a little bit extra afterward and getting some extra shots off. 

“All of that is very positive. I think he’s doing a nice job.”

Earlier Thursday, Matthews joined forward Patrick Kane and defenseman Seth Jones of the Chicago Blackhawks as the first names submitted to be part of the United States men’s hockey team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

It will be Matthews’ first Olympics after NHL players did not participate in PyeongChang in 2018.

“It means a lot,” Matthews said of the opportunity to play with Kane. “I think every time that we’ve skated together, it’s a lot of fun to watch. But just to watch him kind of do what he does, up close and personal, it’s a treat every time and just try to kind of take everything that I can from it and use stuff I maybe see [that can] be applied to my game and just trying to pick his brain. But obviously, he’s a generational talent. He’s had an amazing career and I’m really looking forward to playing with him.” 

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