Any injury hurts a team and a star player’s injury makes an even greater impact. However, when superstar players are sidelined, it even hurts the league itself as the on-ice product suffers. The NHL was dealt some bad news on Sunday night regarding two high-profile players, but at least their absences seems short-term. The Toronto Maple Leafs were without league-leading goal scorer Auston Matthews as they took the ice, with TSN’s Mark Masters relaying that he was out with an undisclosed “minor” injury. The Columbus Blue Jackets were in the same sport with point-per-game scorer Patrik Laine, announcing that he would miss Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury. Both players, who went No. 1 and No. 2 overall in 2016, are considered “day-to-day”.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe told Masters that Matthews was held out for precautionary reasons, especially as the team played the second of a back-to-back. In fact, it was during Saturday’s game that Matthews suffered the injury. Matthews has been relatively healthy this season, only missing time due to injury for the first three games of the campaign, which has helped him reach his massive 58-goal, 102-point totals for the year. The Maple Leafs are understandably playing it safe surrounding the source of so much of their offense.
While Columbus is out of the playoff picture, the team is still rightfully careful with their skilled winger who has dealt with injury issues. Laine is quietly having a career year, recording 56 points through 56 games thus far. Had he been healthy this whole season, Laine very easily might have been on an 80+ point pace. There is no reason to rush him into action if he is dealing with an ailment, no matter how small, with the season lost. Instead, the Blue Jackets will hold out hope that Laine can stay on the ice next season and produce at the same rate.