Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews out for Game 6: What we’re hearing on his injury and timeline

The Toronto Maple Leafs still need to win a game without Auston Matthews to extend their season and give their leading scorer a chance to get healthy enough to return.

Whether that could happen for Game 7, if the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins on Thursday, has still not been determined.

According to multiple sources briefed on the matter, the Leafs are taking a day-by-day approach to Matthews’ recovery. He hasn’t been ruled out for anything other than Game 6 yet, but he clearly faces a major issue missing two potential elimination games.

One source briefed on the matter said Matthews is unlikely to play in a potential Game 7. Another said the team is unsure at the moment.

Given the highly secretive nature of how teams operate during the Stanley Cup playoffs, specific details about what’s going on with Matthews are difficult to come by.

What is known is that the 26-year-old played through illness in Games 3 and 4 of the series before suffering an injury from an innocent hit while playing ill, the sources said. Team doctors removed Matthews from the lineup during the second intermission of Game 4 and he has not been able to participate in a full team skate since.

While Matthews has taken to the ice each year for the past three days — he had a 30-minute session with members of the player development staff at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday morning — one of the sources said it would be “reckless” for him to do so. try to play through what is hindering him.

In a video recorded by The Hockey News during Thursday’s session, Matthews is seen performing drills that involve tipping pucks, cradling and releasing passes and taking one-timers. He also skated a lot more than he did during a brief session on the ice at TD Garden before Game 5 on Tuesday morning.

It looked like progress.

The Leafs extended their season without him in the lineup, earning a 2-1 overtime victory in Boston on Tuesday. Max Domi took Matthews’ spot on the top line between Mitch Marner and Tyler Bertuzzi and went 12-2 in the faceoff while getting an assist.

“Domes stepped up,” said teammate Matthew Knies, who had the overtime winner for Toronto. “I think guys like that can just step up and play those roles. I think collectively we played a team game and found a way to win.”

Added Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe: “It’s a bit of human nature. You realize that everyone has to be better (when you miss a player of that caliber).”

Earlier in the series, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery praised Matthews’ work ethic, calling him the most dangerous man on the ice. That was the day after he scored the game-winning goal and added two assists in Toronto’s Game 2 win at TD Garden.

“Best scorer in the league since he came in,” Montgomery said Thursday morning. “Great player. But the last game they played great without him.”

The Leafs played just one game without Matthews during the regular season — beating Pittsburgh 7-0 on Dec. 16 while he was ill — and have never seen him miss any playoff action during his eight-year NHL career.

It was a challenging series health-wise for Toronto, which missed William Nylander for the first three games due to an undisclosed issue after seeing him appear for every regular-season game.

Winger Bobby McMann also didn’t play at all against the Bruins due to a lower-body injury he suffered on April 13.

But the most irreplaceable player in the Leafs lineup is undoubtedly Matthews, who is coming off a 69-goal season. The team scored just nine goals in the five-game series, though Boston isn’t taking anything for granted.

“It’s just like when Nylander was out,” Bruins defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “Maybe it changes the dynamic of their team. But they are all powerful weapons. Auston is certainly the most dangerous man on the ice when he is off it. But I don’t think their play changed that much last game. Overall, they were just desperate.

“If he had been in the lineup, it probably would have been more of the same.”

Unfortunately for the Leafs, they may have to get used to playing without him to make it an extended playoff run.

(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)