Down: goes Auston Matthews Just!!! Waste of money this guy is…

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

Whether that could happen for Game 7, should the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins on Thursday, still hasn’t 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 yet been ruled out for anything beyond Game 6, but he’s obviously dealing with a significant issue to miss two potential elimination games.

One source briefed on the matter said Matthews playing a potential Game 7 is unlikely. Another said the team is uncertain at this point.

Given the highly secretive nature of how teams operate during the Stanley Cup playoffs, specific details about what is ailing 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 on an innocuous hit while playing sick, according to the sources. Team doctors removed Matthews from the lineup during the second intermission of Game 4 and he’s been unable to participate in a full team skate since.

While Matthews has taken to the ice each of the past three days — he went through 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 try and play through whatever is hampering him.

In video shot by The Hockey News during Thursday’s session, Matthews can be seen performing drills where he tips pucks, cradles and releases passes and takes one-timers. He also skated much more than he did during a brief on-ice session at TD Garden before Game 5 on Tuesday morning.

It looked like progress.

The Leafs extended their season without him in the lineup for a 2-1 overtime victory on Tuesday in Boston. Max Domi took Matthews’ spot on the top line between Mitch Marner and Tyler Bertuzzi and went 12-2 in the faceoff dot while picking up 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 in those roles. I think we collectively played a team game and found a way to get a win.”

Added Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe: “It’s a bit of the human-nature piece. You recognize everybody’s got to be better (when missing a player of that caliber).”

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

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

The Leafs only played one game without Matthews during the regular season — beating Pittsburgh 7-0 on Dec. 16 while he was out sick — and haven’t previously seen him miss any playoff action during his eight-year NHL career.

It’s been a challenging series on the health front for Toronto, which didn’t have William Nylander for the first three games due to an undisclosed issue after seeing him suit up for every game in the regular season.

Winger Bobby McMann also hasn’t played at all against the Bruins because of a lower-body injury suffered on April 13.

But the most irreplaceable player in the Leafs lineup is unquestionably Matthews, who is coming off a 69-goal season. The team has scored just nine goals in the five-game series, although Boston is taking nothing for granted.

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

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

Unfortunately for the Leafs, they may need to get used to playing without him to turn this into an extended playoff run.

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