Toronto goalie James Reimer took part in practice Friday, a day after a collision with teammate Josh Leivo forced him to the dressing room only 32 seconds into the Leafs' game against Carolina. Reimer said he expects to be available for Saturday's game in Chicago.
Reimer, who suffered a concussion in a similar crash with Montreal's Brian Gionta two years ago that caused him to miss significant time, said he actually wanted to stay in against the Hurricanes, but NHL protocol mandated that he leave the contest.
"I had a bit of a headache so the doctor felt it was in my best interest that I stay out for the rest of the game," said Reimer, who was on the ice for practice Friday morning. "I came in this morning and felt pretty good. I rode the bike and worked out before I hit the ice and when I got on the ice I felt pretty good."
Reimer said he expects to be available for Saturday's game in Chicago (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).
After the Gionta hit Reimer tried to play immediately, but eventually shut it down after concussion symptoms got worse. He said there is no fear that he is coming back too early this time.
"I think we know more about it and especially I know more about my own body and how I feel and how I am reacting," Reimer said. "Who knows, sometimes there are things you don't know about, but in this case I feel pretty confident. I woke up this morning feeling pretty good and did a few things to get my heart rate up and nothing got worse."
Where's the thrill, Phil?
It's not that he's playing badly. After all, Phil Kessel stands 26th in NHL scoring with two goals and eight points in eight games. However, in his past few games Kessel has fallen back into an old habit of floating on defence and, when he has the puck, taking long, easy-to-stop snap shots that have been gobbled up by opposing goalies.
Kessel, who is at his best when he drives hard to the net, has averaged 2.5 shots on goal per game this season, compared to 3.5 per game last year. He had no shots on goal against Minnesota Tuesday and three against Carolina Thursday and is on pace for 21 goals.
Coach Randy Carlyle isn't overly concerned about Kessel.
"Goal scorers find their niche and comfort zone and I think with Phil, we've asked him to play a bit more of a cycle game and to do different things," Carlyle said. "I think the power play is one area where, with him, that's his cookies, and he gets his chances and opportunities on the power play. Once you get one the floodgates open."
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier suffered the humiliation of allowing a fluke goal on a shot from the other end of the ice and lived to tell about it.
"It's not like a repeat shot that I got beat on," Bernier said. "Hopefully it's a one-time thing and it's not going to happen again. You've just got to laugh about it. At the end of the game it cost us a point or two, but I just have to regroup and get ready for Saturday."
Bernier said he half expected to get a note from former teammate Jonathan Quick, who himself has allowed an embarrassing goal or two.
"Yeah, I thought he might text me and say, 'Welcome to the club,'" Bernier said with a laugh.
JVR set to go
James van Riemsdyk, who has missed two games with back spasms, is expected to be available to play against the Blackhawks Saturday night. He practised with the Maple Leafs Friday morning.
Right-winger Troy Bodie, who has been a healthy scratch the past four games, was playing on a line with centre Nazem Kadri and left-winger Jay McClement at practice Friday morning, suggesting he could be inserted into the lineup to face the Blackhawks. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound Bodie has two assists and five penalty minutes (a fighting major) in four games this season.
Beware of 'Hawks
Carlyle has been saying all week that if his team didn't play better a defeat was in the cards. And he was proven right against Carolina. Now he is looking for a bounce-back game against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"If we don't play to a higher level then I am sure the score will be a lot more lopsided in Chicago's favour," Carlyle said. "Last night I thought we played well for the first period, but then we resorted back to the turnover game in the second and we took penalties which gave them momentum. It is early in the season and we are a hockey club that is still trying to find its game. We know we're playing the Stanley Cup champions so we'd better beware."
The Maple Leafs called upon goalie Michael Nishi from the University of Toronto just in case Reimer was not ready to practice. As it turned out, Reimer did practice, but the Leafs still allowed Nishi to take part.
Nishi, 19, played for Windsor, Guelph, Sault Ste. Marie and Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League and Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Varsity Blues have played three games this season and Nishi has yet to see action.
On Thursday night the Leafs called on another U of T goalie, Brett Willows, in an emergency situation after Reimer was injured early in the game. Willows, 23, dressed, but remained in the equipment room and would only have come out if Bernier had been injured.
Reid Mitchell, the Maple Leafs' director of hockey and scouting administration, said the team is a little handcuffed in game situations when a goalie is injured. Teams cannot call upon pro players or players that are draft eligible. Also, using a Tier II Junior A player would make that player ineligible to play NCAA hockey. So Canadian University players are a solid option.
"Many of them have played major junior, they are still playing and they are good players," Mitchell said.
Third time lucky
The Maple Leafs have been very impressed with Leivo, a third-round pick in 2011. Levio scored his first NHL goal Thursday against Carolina. Another third-rounder, Carter Verhaeghe of the Niagara IceDogs, is currently tied for the scoring lead in the OHL with 10 goals and 22 points in 10 games. He was the Maple Leafs' third-round pick in 2013.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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