Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews returned to the ice to skate with his team Sunday, sporting a red non-contact jersey as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
The 21-year-old was initially knocked out of action on Oct. 27 after absorbing a hit from Winnipeg Jets defender Jacob Trouba. Back on the ice in the third week of his original four-week timeline, the pivot said he still needs some time to get back up to speed.
“It’s obviously going to be tough on the lungs, just kind of getting back to that pace of play and getting a feel for the puck in that kind of setting,” Matthews told reporters Sunday. “Obviously it’s nice to be back out there with the guys, and it beats skating by yourself all the time.”
As for the shoulder itself, the Scottsdale, Ari., native said he’s on the right track in his recovery, though not necessarily on the cusp of returning.
“[The shoulder] feels a lot better, I think it’s progressed quite well,” he said. “It’s still not all there, but hopefully it continues to progress and, [I can] get back out there as soon as possible.”
Matthews’ late-October injury cut short a torrid start to the 2018-19 campaign, which saw him reel off 10 goals and 16 points through his first 10 appearances this season. During his nine-game absence, the Leafs have gone 6-3, dropping the first two games without their star sniper before rolling along through a stretch that’s seen them lose just one of their past seven.
Despite Matthews remaining out, Toronto currently sits second in the Eastern Conference and third league-wide, with Mitch Marner’s 26 points leading the club at the moment.