Joe Thornton out at least a month for Maple Leafs with rib fracture

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A rib fracture will keep Joe Thornton out of the Maple Leafs’ lineup for at least the next month, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Thornton took an awkward hit along the boards during Wednesday night’s loss to the Oilers. The 41-year-old immediately skated to the Toronto bench where he was clearly in some discomfort. After the game, Keefe said the forward would definitely “miss some time,” and it wasn’t a day-to-day kind of injury.

Should the four-week timeline for Thornton be all he needs, he’ll miss nine games, beginning with Friday night’s contest against Edmonton.

Thornton, who signed a one-year deal with Toronto after 15 seasons in San Jose, has a goal and an assist in five games this season. He’s been playing on the Maple Leafs’ top line with Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. Matthews will also be out Friday with upper-body “soreness” after missing Thursday’s practice.

“I’m not too concerned,” Keefe said of Matthews. “There was a possibility that he would play today but he just still wasn’t feeling right in that sense so we’re going to give it a little bit more time.”

Where does Keefe go now that he’s down two of top forwards? He wouldn’t reveal any new line combinations Friday morning, but John Tavares as the No. 1 center seems obvious. Keefe also said he won’t be moving William Nylander to down the middle and added the lineup will go back to 12 forwards and six defense after going 11/7 the last two games.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.