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Matthews takes aim at 70 goals against Kane, desperate Wings

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews - The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs (optional) and Detroit Red Wings skated at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday ahead of tonight's matchup

Patrick Kane didn't think 70 goals was possible in today's NHL. 

"I feel like 60 was a big number when [Steven] Stamkos and [Alex] Ovechkin hit it, and 70 kind of seemed out of reach with anyone," the veteran Red Wings winger said. "Even this year, I know there was some talk of it, but it didn't seem like it was a realistic number and then, all of the sudden, he's right there. His production has been off the charts."

Auston Matthews is up to 68 goals with three games left in the regular season, including Saturday's showdown with Detroit. 

"Incredible," Kane said. "I mean, obviously his career, but just what he's doing this year, how many goals he has, his production, it's just pretty incredible. I think you see a guy that's wanting to produce every night, not satisfied with where he's at in his game, and knows how good he is as well."

Matthews, who grew up admiring Kane, has scored in seven straight games. He potted a pair of goals on Thursday, which marked his 18th multi-goal game of the season. 

He's never scored in eight straight NHL games, but no one is betting against Matthews with the way things are going.  

"Obviously, there's a lot of talk about his shot and his release, but I think a lot of his goals are scored right around the net too, right in the crease," Kane noted. "He can score any which way. He scores pretty goals, dirty goals, one timers, wrist shots, snap shots off his release with changing the angle. He can score any way."

ContentId(1.2103924): Kane on 'incredible' Matthews: 'You see a guy not satisfied'

With the Leafs secure in a playoff spot, Matthews' march to a milestone has taken over this hockey-crazed city. 

"I'm out and about and in the rinks and stuff with my kids and even yesterday I had probably a dozen 10-year-olds running up to me asking how many Auston's going to get," said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. "Like, everybody's excited about that. I get the hype and everything around it. It is, certainly, fun. From my perspective, I get more of a thrill of just watching Auston play and where his game is at and all of that, and wherever the number gets to, I'm not concerned about. I've never been concerned about that. I'm not even convinced he's concerned about it." 

No player has scored 70 goals in a season since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny in 1992-93. That was well before Leafs winger Nick Robertson was born. 

"When you're in the moment it's kind of hard to grasp," the 22-year-old said. "Maybe looking back on it, it's kind of crazy, someone going for 70 goals. I hope he gets it. It's looking like he will. I don't even know the last time someone got 70 goals. For him to do it in this modern day and age, it's pretty amazing. so I look forward to hopefully him accomplishing that." 

While teammates often bring up the goal of 70 goals, Matthews has kept the focus on the team's objectives and the need to maintain a good process ahead of the playoffs.  

"These superstars evolve and, yes, it's on the ice, but it's usually what's important to them and off the ice," said Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde said. "He looks very motivated to win. It's just impressive and fun to watch."

And seemingly impossible to stop. Although the Wings have kept Matthews off the scoresheet in a pair of games this season. 

"He's scoring from everywhere," said Wings defenceman Moritz Seider. "If you're not having a stick there right away, there's a good chance it ends up in the back of the net. That's the biggest challenge tonight: staying on top of him and making it hard on that line."

Matthews is aiming to post multiple goals in consecutive games for the 10th time in his career and the fifth time this season. 

ContentId(1.2103935): Leafs enjoying the ride as Matthews targets 70 in home finale


Max Domi, who has been riding shotgun with Matthews during this scintillating stretch, will be able to play on Saturday. The forward missed Friday's practice with an undisclosed injury, but returned to the ice on Saturday morning. 

Domi picked up two assists on Thursday and also dropped the gloves with Devils defenceman Simon Nemec, who had briefly gotten into it with Matthews along the boards. 

"He's a great teammate," said Kane, who played with Domi in Chicago last season. "There'd be times I'd just take a regular hit and he would come and fight the guy. I'd be like, 'Dude, it's just a normal hit. You don't have to fight him.' But he loves his teammates and he's such a great guy. I only played with him for that short amount of time, but I feel like I have a friend for the rest of my life."

Domi's chemistry with Matthews and Tyler Bertuzzi is undeniable and has forced Keefe to rethink his playoff lineup. 

"The way things have come together here with Auston, Max and Bert, like, that's a real thing," Keefe said. "That's not just a short-term thing. That's a real thing that gives our team a completely different look. We've been wanting to give that time."

Domi is fifth in the NHL in 5-on-5 assists this season. 

"It seems like they have a lot of chemistry," Kane said of Domi and Matthews. "I know he's always looking for him when he gets the puck. He's a great distributor, a great passer, sees the game very well. I had a lot of fun playing with him last year."  

ContentId(1.2103468): Domi fights for Matthews: 'He scared the s--- out of me when I was in London'


The Wings will start ex-Leaf James Reimer on Saturday. It will be his 500th career game in the NHL. 

"I think it's fitting he's doing it here in Toronto in a meaningful game for our organization," said Lalonde. 

Reimer, who was drafted by the Leafs in 2006 and played 207 games for Toronto, will become just the 80th goalie to reach the milestone. 

Alex Lyon had made the last six starts for the Wings, but gave up six goals in Thursday's loss at Pittsburgh. 

"We've asked a lot of Alex," Lalonde noted. "It looked like it kind of caught up to him a little bit in Pittsburgh. He's never done this in his career, especially at this level."

Reimer hasn't played since March 28. 

"You talk about [his] compete, but he's been winning for us too," Lalonde pointed out. "We want to give ourselves the best chance to win and, the body of work of late, we felt it was Reimer tonight."

Reimer, who wore No. 34 in Toronto before Matthews was drafted and took over the number, has won six of his last eight decisions. 

ContentId(1.2103936): Desperate Wings turn to milestone man Reimer in Toronto


Detroit rallied from 5-3 down in the third period in Pittsburgh before falling in overtime. 

"I rarely grab the team after a loss, but I thought that was important," said Lalonde. "I grabbed them because I knew it would be very emotional and I just said, 'That's a very important point. I still think there's a path for us. We're going to have to take care of our own business, but I still think there's a positive path there because we got that point.' So, we talked about it and we put it behind us."

The Wings and the Washington Capitals are tied on 85 points, just one behind Pittsburgh in the race for the final playoff spot. 

"We have everything on the line right now," said Seider. "It's like a do-or-die game. We're really prepared for this opportunity. We showed in the past we can play with the Leafs and even beat them so why not tonight and why not us?"

The Wings beat the Leafs in Toronto in their previous meeting on Jan. 14. Reimer also got the start in that game. 

This is the type of game that will help the Leafs prepare for the playoffs. It is also Toronto's final home game in the regular season. 

"It will be intense and that's what you want this time of year," said defenceman Morgan Rielly. "They'll be competing and I expect us to be prepared and be ready. We want to win at home and, again, get that good feeling, that confidence going going into playoffs. 

ContentId(1.2103937): Kane helping Wings navigate pressure of playoff race


Defenceman Joel Edmundson practised on Friday and skated on Saturday morning, but will not dress against the Wings. 

"Just something's popped up that we're being overly cautious with at this point," said Keefe. "Nothing we're too concerned about but, everything considered, we'll give him tonight off."

Edmundson just returned from a eight-game absence. He blocked a shot off his foot in Raleigh on March 24. 

"Nothing to do with his previous injury," Keefe assured. 


Defenceman Timothy Liljegren will play for the Leafs for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on March 26. 

"This previous stretch, prior to his injury, I thought he was playing outstanding," said Rielly. "When he's making plays and skating and he has that confidence about him, he's extremely dangerous. He's really grown a lot. When he's on top of his game, he's a great player for us." 

Liljegren skated alongside Rielly at Friday's practice, but that duo won't start together on Saturday.  

"All season long they've been playing together at different times so it's more about getting the reps," explained Keefe. "Even though they're not paired together tonight, they'll still get shifts together. They'll get O-zone starts together."

Liljegren is likely to start alongside T.J. Brodie on the third pair. 


The Leafs assigned Matt Murray to the Toronto Marlies on a LTIR conditioning loan. The 29-year-old goalie has not played since undergoing bilateral hip surgery at the start of the season. 

"It's been tremendous how he's gone about things," said Keefe. "You see him in there every day. You see him working and, especially for most of the season, it's often by himself and it's often odd hours when there's not a lot of people around, so you see him doing his thing and you have a good appreciation for how long a road it's been, but also the mindset he's maintained all the way through just to do everything that he can to be ready and give himself an opportunity to get in the net this season."

Murray last played for the Leafs on April 2, 2023 when he sustained a concussion during a game against the Red Wings.  

"The fact he's going to go down and play in the American League is tremendous story and a credit to him and his approach as a pro," Keefe continued. "Obviously it's a distant thing from what we're doing here but, as an independent thing for him, it's been cool to watch and not surprised about it, because he is a pro, no doubt about that. Credit to him and I hope he goes down and has some fun and stops some pucks."

ContentId(1.2103934): 'Tremendous story': Leafs' Murray returns to game action in AHL


Projected Leafs lineup for Saturday's game: 

Bertuzzi - Matthews - Domi
McMann - Tavares - Marner 
Robertson - Holmberg - Nylander 
Knies - Kampf - Reaves 

Rielly - Lyubushkin  
Benoit - McCabe 
Brodie - Liljegren 

Samsonov starts