Auston Matthews would love to get a couple of shots to drop in the Maple Leafs’ last two games of the regular season.
If that happens, the Leafs superstar will be the first National Hockey League to score 60 goals in 10 years.
“It would mean a lot,” Matthews said after the Leafs’ morning skate at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday. “I’ve had some really good opportunities of late but the puck hasn’t gone in. As long as I’m getting those opportunities, I know they’ll fall.
“It’s also not the end of the world (if it doesn’t happen). There’s more to this season than accomplishing that, but there’s nothing in this season that I care about (more than winning).”
The previous time there was a 60-goal scorer in the NHL was in 2011-12, when Steven Stamkos finished with 60 for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In three games this season against the Detroit Red Wings — the Leafs’ opponent on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena — Matthews has just one goal.
Matthews had gone five games without a goal, his longest drought of 2021-22. In two games since returning from an undisclosed minor injury, Matthews has 11 shots on goal.
Linemate Mitch Marner needs three points to reach 100 for the first time in his NHL career.
Matthews has 58 goals in 72 games. He has a three-goal lead over Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
The Leafs require one point to clinch second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They finish the regular season at home on Friday against the Boston Bruins.
“No doubt we want to see it,” Leafs captain John Tavares said of Matthews’ hunt for 60 goals. “He’s in that position because of the way he has approached it and the way he continues to work at his game, his consistency and the diligence that he puts in.”
Winger Michael Bunting, who departed the game in Florida on Saturday and then missed the game in Washington, was on the ice before the morning skate. Bunting fell awkwardly behind the Panthers net and was favouring his right leg as he left that night.
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said the situation was positive for Bunting, but added that the 26-year-old won’t play in the final two games.
Defenceman Jake Muzzin will be back in the Leafs lineup after missing the past six games with an undisclosed injury.
Since returning on April 5 from his second concussion this season, Muzzin has played in just four games.
“Very significant,” Keefe said of Muzzin’s participation against the Wings. “He needs to get the game reps, both to get himself up to speed and then gain the confidence that he’s ready to go (for the playoffs).”
Defenceman Rasmus Sandin (knee) and winger Ondrej Kase (concussion) took part in the morning skate. Sandin is expected to join the Leafs for full practices later this week, but there remains no timeline for Kase’s return.
Goalie Petr Mrazek (groin) also has been skating, but is not thought to be close to returning.
Jack Campbell will start in goal for the Leafs. Whether he starts in the finale remains to be determined, Keefe said.
Nick Robertson was recalled from the Toronto Marlies on an emergency basis and will skate on the second line. Robertson has seven goals in his past nine games with the farm club.
Defenceman Carl Dahlstrom was returned to the Marlies.
The projected Leafs lineup:
Alex Kerfoot-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev-John Tavares-Nick Robertson
William Nylander-David Kampf-Pierre Engvall
Nick Abruzzese-Colin Blackwell-Jason Spezza
Morgan Rielly-Ilya Lyubushkin
Jake Muzzin-TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano-Timothy Liljegren