While Toronto is all the better for having the NHL’s leading scorer on a nightly basis, it has a winning record through the years when injury has taken Matthews out of the lineup. That includes 2021 when he missed a Northern Division series in Edmonton and the first three games this season, two of them victories.

Tuesday, the first tilt of Matthews’ two-game NHL suspension, saw the Leafs beat Dallas 4-0. Thursday, they’ll have to get past a strong Carolina team, minus that 45-goal touch.

“Everyone knows you need to stand up and do a little more,” said Matthews’ regular winger Mitch Marner. “He does a lot for us, so guys have to take on a bigger role.”

John Tavares moved up to centre Marner and Michael Bunting, ending his night with a goal and assist.

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