If the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to cool off the Vegas Golden Knights, they may have to do it without superstar Auston Matthews.
Matthews left the ice early at the morning skate Monday and Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock wasn't sure the young centre would be available for Toronto's home game against the Golden Knights in the evening.
"Matthews is a game-time decision with soreness," said Babcock. "We'll see."
After Matthews went to the locker-room, Babcock had right-winger William Nylander centring the top line. If Matthews sits out, Nylander is expected to slide over to centre.
When asked if the soreness was an ongoing issue or if it came from Saturday night's 6-4 loss in St. Louis, Babcock was terse.
"No, I don't think it even happened in St. Louis. How's that?" said Babcock.
The 20-year-old Matthews has 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in 15 games this season. He was selected first overall by the Maple Leafs in last year's draft and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 2016-17, scoring 40 goals with 29 assists.
Matthews was not made available for comment after the morning skate.
Vegas (9-4-0) is off to a hot start in its inaugural season, having won six of its past 10 games entering play Monday at Air Canada Centre. The Golden Knights, who are in second place in the Pacific Division, also have some momentum after a 5-4 win in Ottawa on Saturday.
Toronto (8-7-0) is headed in the opposite direction. The Leafs have dropped back-to-back games and lost six of their past 10 to sit third in the Atlantic Division behind Tampa Bay and Ottawa.
"We've been in our own way, I really believe, the last five or six games," said Babcock. "Not playing without the puck right, turning over the puck. We took a run at that and I think we've proven to ourselves we can't win like that, so let's fix it."
Nylander, in his third NHL season, has three goals and eight assists in 15 games with a plus-9 rating. A natural winger, he has some experience at centre with the Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Maple Leafs.
"I'll be ready to play centre if I need to, but I don't think I'll have to," said Nylander, who was pleased to be back on Toronto's top unit after Connor Brown spent more time with the first line in the Maple Leafs' last game.