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Feb 4, 2024 3:10 pm

Auston Matthews, Leafs aim to ride All-Star momentum vs. Isles

The Toronto Maple Leafs won three in a row before the All-Star break. They will look to continue their good fortune on Monday against the visiting New York Islanders.

The momentum continued for the Toronto players that participated in the All-Star weekend in Toronto.

Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, who leads the league with 40 goals, was the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game Saturday. He collected two goals and had an assist for Team Matthews in a 7-4 win over Team McDavid in the final.

Matthews also had an assist in the semifinal, a 6-5 shootout win over Team Hughes.

“We wanted to win, for sure,” Matthews said. “Talking in the locker room, I don’t think there was much messing around. Everybody was pretty much on the same page, to try to go out there, put in a pretty good effort and try to come out with a good result.”

Matthews had Maple Leafs teammates William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and Morgan Rielly on his team.

Mathew Barzal of the Islanders also was on Team Matthews. He stayed sharp by participating in the skills contest Friday.

“I’m kind of glad I got that in, because I’m not going to practice before the next game,” Barzal said. “Got the legs going and that should keep me in shape for Monday.”

The Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning are competing for third place in the Atlantic Division.

“I think our team is in a great position to be primed for a little run here in the back half of the season, so we’re looking forward to playing Monday,” Rielly said after the All-Star Game.

The Leafs goaltending picture should be complete soon. Joseph Woll (ankle) is close to returning after being injured Dec. 7 against the Ottawa Senators.

Ilya Samsonov showed signs of regaining his good form before the break, and Martin Jones was solid in filling the gap during Woll’s injury and Samsonov’s struggles.

Monday’s game will be the Islanders’ fifth since Patrick Roy replaced Lane Lambert as coach.

New York, struggling to make a playoff spot, is 1-2-1 under Roy after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers Jan. 27.

Roy has leaned heavily on Barzal, Bo Horvat and Noah Dobson, and the Islanders have looked like a better team despite the results.

“Quite honestly, I know what we’re doing works, and I hope that our players feel the same,” Roy said after the loss to the Panthers. “I know we wanted that game. But I believe if we continue to play that way, good things will happen.”

The Islanders placed forward Julien Gauthier on waivers Friday after Gauthier was a healthy scratch in the last game before the All-Star break.

He had been benched one game earlier against the Montreal Canadiens.

Gauthier cleared waivers and was assigned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. He has five goals and four assists in 27 games with New York.

The Islanders added Benoit Desrosiers as their third assistant coach on Friday.

Desrosiers worked with Roy for six seasons with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Maritimes Junior League.

– Field Level Media

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