Patrick Kane 'really impressed' with Leafs' Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New York Rangers in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on October 7, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Patrick Kane’s take on Auston Matthews is like that of everyone else who has crossed paths with the budding Maple Leafs superstar.
Kane figures there’s not much limit to what Matthews is capable of doing.
Kane got a closer look this past summer after he had a chance to skate with his fellow American for the first time.
“I was just really impressed with not only his shot and his quick release, but the way he battles for pucks,” Kane said Monday. “The biggest thing you notice off the ice is how big he is. He’s (20) years old but he has a man’s body.”
Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks face the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night for a Thanksgiving tilt that features a couple of 2-0 teams early in the 2017-18 National Hockey League regular season.
Matthews’ respect for Kane was just as clear following the teams’ morning skates on Monday at the ACC. Kane’s wizardry with the puck has allowed him to average more than a point a game in an NHL career that started in 2007, and in Chicago’s two victories this season, Kane has amassed six points.
“One of my favourite players today to watch, and I try to see what he does and try to translate it into my game,” Matthews said. “He has been unbelievable for a lot of American kids, for myself. Playing against him, it is pretty cool.”
Kane is seen as the face of hockey in the United States. Is that something Matthews aspires to be?
“Yeah, for sure,” Matthews said. “His pedigree, everything he has earned over his career is pretty incredible. He’s a good role model for US Hockey. We have a lot of guys coming up.”
While players on both sides were stressing the need for strong defensive hockey, it could be another night of fireworks.
The Leafs and Blackhawks both have scored 15 goals in their first two games, leading the NHL in that category. A significant difference is the Leafs have allowed seven goals, while the Hawks have allowed two.
Frederik Andersen will start in net for the Leafs — he has a 1-2-3 record in six career games against Chicago with a .914 save percentage — while the visitors will counter with backup Anton Forsberg. The latter will face the Leafs for the first time in his career. In 10 NHL games, all with Columbus, Forsberg is 1-8-0 with a .879 save percentage.
The Leafs are expected to feature a rookie tandem of Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen on the blue line. Defenceman Connor Carrick, the last player off the ice for the Leafs in the morning, said he is dealing with an upper-body issue, a minor injury suffered in a Toronto win against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
“Terrible timing, horrible,” Carrick told a couple of reporters, referring to missing the game against his home-town team.
“There is no good time, though. Look across the league, there are guys who have gone down with real serious injuries after long summers, long camps, they are excited for the season and they are done for the year. It’s hard (but) the ‘poor me’ thing does not work.”
Also, Eric Fehr will centre the Leafs’ fourth line, as coach Mike Babcock keeps a rotation going with Dominic Moore.