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Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews 'Hoping For That First Game' in Recovery From Wrist Surgery

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews continues to show progress from wrist surgery and is hopeful to return in time for the season opener.

Auston Matthews continues to show signs of recovery from wrist surgery performed in August. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward took part in a full practice with the club for the first time during training camp. On Sunday, he skated with teammates in contact drills for the first time and that continued into the team's latest practice on Monday.

"I think each day has progressed really well and the last couple of weeks I've been able to turn it up a couple (of) notches, handle the puck and just feel more comfortable out there," Matthews said. "I think just taking reps out there with the guys is a good sign for me personally. 

"I'm just taking it day-by-day and kind of planning and hoping for that first game (Leafs' season opener Oct. 13 against the Montreal Canadiens).

Matthews' participation beyond what was planned for him on Sunday was a pleasant surprise to Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. 

On Monday, Matthews donned a red non-contact jersey despite taking part in the full session.

"I think that was more precautionary, the guys kind of know not to run me through the boards right now," Matthews said. "Today was good like getting into it with the guys and feeling that pressure and working through it and everything felt pretty solid so I was pretty happy with it."

The Maple Leafs announced on Aug. 13 that Matthews would miss a minimum of six weeks after undergoing wrist surgery. Now he's trying to get comfortable in dealing with a combination of slight pain management and comfort in getting his wrist back to where it was before the injury.

"I think that the slight pain I'll feel every once in a while is just kind of from sitting around for six weeks and not being able to and jumping back into it," Matthews said. "It's not bad pain, it's just how it is when you come back and what not and just building back the strength where it felt when I was 100 percent healthy."

Matthews' wrist had bothered the Arizona native for much of last season. It didn't stop him from winning the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy, handed out annually to the player who scores the most goals in a season. He scored 41 in 52 games in 2020-21.

When not on the ice with his teammates, Matthews has spent much of training camp working with team skills and development consultant Darryl Belfry, a move designed to help the star forward re-establish his skills after his time away from the ice.

"Anytime I've seen him get a little time to work on something you see the type of results, instantly," Keefe said. "When he's just dropped into our practices, you can tell that he's there and you can see the differences in the confidence that he has."

Over the last week, Matthews has skated on a line with regular linemate Mitch Marner and newcomer Nick Ritchie in a preview of what the top trio could look like on opening night.

"He's obviously a really big boy but he can make plays," Matthews said of Ritchie. "It's really impressive, forehand, backhand with guys kind of on him, he's such a big body that it's hard to take the puck away from him and he's got such great vision."

The timeline for Matthews' injury was a minimum of six weeks and he's currently into his eighth week. 

"When the medical team deem that it's appropriate for him to really resume full participation and be ready for games then we'll of course get him involved," Keefe said of Matthews. "But up until then he's just going to continue to go through his process and I have no doubts he'll be ready." 

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