MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: Will more calls mean more space for Auston Matthews?

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WINNIPEG — Auston Matthews doesn’t think too much about it.

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Still, the fact that the Maple Leafs superstar is finally getting calls that have been hard to come by can only help.

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In the Leafs’ first five games of the season before Saturday night against the Jets, Matthews took six minor penalties in a five-on-five game, the most in the National Hockey League.

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In his 73 games last season, Matthews drew a grand total of 12 minors while playing five-on-five.

« I don’t know (why the refs are calling more), » Matthews said. « I don’t pay too much attention to that.

“I just try to move my feet when I have the puck, not invite contact, but the guys play physically and that’s perfectly fine.

« I read what they’re trying to do and try to get the body position to force them to take a penalty, or you’ll have a cleaner lane to make a play. »

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The benefits for Matthews, if the calls continue, are clear, and not just because they would put the Leafs on the power play.

« That should give him a bit more space over time because if he starts getting those calls the opponent will have to be a bit more aware of what they’re doing, » coach Sheldon Keefe said. . « That’s ultimately the job of the officials, is to make the most appropriate decisions to give the players the space and allow them to have a fair chance to play and use their skills.

« It’s the start of the season, we’ll see how it goes. Usually the standard and the way things are called vary throughout the season. From the start he had them. I think he’s also trying to find his game and find his rhythm, and he’s engaged and involved in a lot of things that happen physically.

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Matthews had an interview day on Friday and was absent from practice. Among other things, he cross-checked Stars captain Jamie Benn’s midsection on Thursday. Matthews stayed in the game against Dallas and set up Nick Robertson for the overtime winner.

« I feel good, » Matthews said. « It was nice to have that day yesterday and to rest, to recover. The crossover stung a bit. Nothing serious obviously, but stung for about 24 hours. It’s fine now.


An off-season ankle injury that has stalled Pierre Engvall’s progress at camp has not finished wreaking havoc on the winger.

Keefe agreed with the idea that the injury had an impact on Engvall’s departure. Before sitting the 6-foot-5, 219-pound Engvall on Saturday, Keefe had a chat with him.

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« He seemed hesitant and hesitant to skate, » Keefe said. “It’s his number one asset, it’s moving his feet, both with the puck and without the puck, to get involved. He hasn’t done it yet. »

The Leafs thought Engvall would help make up for the loss of Ilya Mikheyev, who scored 21 goals in 53 games last season and turned that into a hefty four-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency.

Still, Engvall was one of only three Leafs, along with wingers Zach Aston-Reese and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who played the first five games and failed to score a point.

In 78 games last year, Engvall flourished, setting career highs at every level with 15 goals, 20 assists and 35 points.

« It’s a bit of a reset for him, » Keefe said of Engvall. “I just want him to clear his head.

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“I know he has more ability to positively impact our roster. He had a good season last year and we are looking for him to build on that. It didn’t go the way he or I would have liked it to start. We have to move it forward.


Recalling winger Kyle Clifford, the Leafs sent defenseman Filip Kral to the Toronto Marlies in a corresponding move. Clifford had no interest in providing insight into his emotions over the past two weeks after being cut, cleared waivers and sent to the minors, where he played in two games. « I don’t have any, » Clifford said dryly after morning practice. “That’s where everyone wants to be. You just come in and play and get ready. … Expect to see Erik Kallgren in net for the Leafs on the five-game trip, likely next weekend when Toronto play back-to-back Los Angeles and Anaheim. « We’re going to need both guys, » Keefe said. “Kallgren is going to come back there, but definitely (Ilya) Samsonov is going to have the heaviest workload. We manage that. … Keefe on one reason he thinks Robertson will continue to be effective: “We’ve seen developments in his strength. In addition, it has a low center of gravity. He skates very low. He can go under a lot of guys, can be a tough guy to hit that way. … Jets forward Adam Lowry on the return of coach Rick Bowness, was behind the Winnipeg bench for the first time on Saturday after missing the first four games because he tested positive for Covid-19: “C ‘it’s great. We are happy that he is healthy and back. We missed him on the road. It has a calming influence in the room. The Jets went 2-2 with associate coach Scott Arniel leading the bench.

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