TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs could be facing the Boston Bruins in back-to-back games without star center Auston Matthews.
The teams meet Friday night at the Air Canada Centre and return to Boston for a game on Saturday.
Matthews, 20, who has 10 goals and nine assists, missed the win over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday with what is termed an upper-body injury.
He did not skate with the Maple Leafs on Thursday and he could be given the weekend off.
“When he’s ready to go, when he’s out there skating around, we’ll know he’s a day closer,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “The kid wants to play hockey. It’s not serious, but it’s something we’ve got to get fixed.”
The Bruins, who lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Wednesday, have injury problems of their own with Brad Marchand (upper body), David Krejci (back), David Backes (colon surgery), Ryan Spooner (groin), Adam McQuaid (broken leg) and Noel Acciari (finger) among the missing.
Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday that Acciari and Marchand would be game-time decisions on Friday. He also said that Anton Khudobin will probably be in goal Friday with Tuukka Rask likely getting the nod Saturday in Boston.
The Bruins hurt themselves with a slow start Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
“We want to see the urgency at seven or eight when the puck drops — not when we’re behind a couple,” Cassidy said. “That’s the message we’re trying to get through and hopefully it sinks in Friday because we’ve got another tough building.”
“We’re trying to figure it out, obviously,” Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara said. “It’s something that we need to do a better job probably before games to make sure everyone is really ready. Whether it’s talking more or having more focus, have emphasis on those first few shifts. That’s obviously up to us to make sure we have those.”
Maple Leafs left winger Matt Martin issued a warning about the American Hockey League callups that are with the Bruins.
“They’re healthy scratches who are hungry for their opportunity to play,” Martin said. “You have to be ready and realize they’re still a good team. You try and play with speed against them. They’re a big team, you want to be physical against them, but also use your speed and talent and take advantage of your opportunities.”
The Maple Leafs (10-7-0) are 4-6-0 in their past 10. They have won two in a row after returning from a 1-3-0 road trip.
The Bruins (6-5-3) are 4-3-3 in their past 10 games.
Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen and defenseman Jake Gardiner also missed practice Thursday but are expected to play Friday.
Andersen made 35 saves against Minnesota despite suffering an arm injury during the third period.
“It didn’t feel too good right away and I got a little lucky I didn’t hyperextend it more than a little bit,” Andersen said after the game on Wednesday. “It was a scary moment, but the post gave out a little bit.”
With Matthews out, veteran Patrick Marleau was on the first line.
“Any time you have a chance to play with a player with that much experience (like Marleau) you learn a lot of things,” said Zach Hyman, who has been playing left wing with Matthews. “Patty is a great player whether he plays wing or center. He played center with me and (Connor Brown) and it was fun playing with him, really enjoyed it.”
Hyman said the unsuccessful trip was a learning experience for a team that started so well.
“It’s a wake-up call,” Hyman said. “It was a wake-up call early that trip. We got off to a really good start to the season and then we hit a bump in the road like all teams do. Over the season, you’re going to have highs and lows and the California road trip is a hard trip and St Louis is also a good team.
“We learned some lessons there and now we have to keep building on this little homestand.”