NEW YORK - The mystery builds around James Reimer.
The Toronto Maple Leafs netminder will not play Thursday against the New York Rangers as he remains out with what the team is calling a “whiplash” injury affecting his neck.
Reimer took a full practice Wednesday and declared himself likely to return but had a setback with the injury a few hours later.
Backup Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson then caused a bit of a stir at the morning skate Thursday when he called Reimer’s injury “a concussion,” but Leafs coach Ron Wilson was quick to refute that terminology.
“When he practised he said he felt pretty good,” Gustavsson said of Reimer. “With concussions you never know, right? So I tried to just mentally be ready to go. You don’t really know before he plays a full game and feels good about that.”
“Well the doctors haven’t said that to me,” Wilson said when asked if Reimer’s injury was a concussion. “Last time I checked, I don’t have a medical degree and I don’t think The Monster does either. Until we’re told something like that, this is a day-to-day thing. He felt fine yesterday.
“If we were playing the Rangers yesterday, he probably would have been in goal. But after the practice he didn’t feel 100 per cent. He’s somewhere in the mid-90s so we decided to shut him down for a day and get him back to 100 per cent.”
Reimer’s agent, Ray Petkau, also posted on Twitter that his client did not have a concussion.
“James has not been diagnosed with a concussion,” Petkau wrote. “He could play, but it’s best to be cautious after blow to head.”
Leafs senior vice-president Dave Nonis added that they were being careful with Reimer given the nature of his injury.
“[Team doctors]are treating the symptoms, whatever those may be,” Nonis said. “He’s not feeling the right way. So we’re taking him off the ice and dealing with it that way.
“We’re going to treat it cautiously. He’s not going to play tonight. He might not play Saturday [against Pittsburgh]if he’s not feeling right. We’re going to wait until he feels good before we put him into the net.”
Whatever the exact terms of Reimer’s injury, what is clear is that the Leafs are treating his symptoms in the same way they would a concussion, taking him entirely off the ice until he feels fully recovered.
His timetable for a return is now uncertain.
Reimer suffered the injury early in Saturday’s win over the Montreal Canadiens after he was run into by Brian Gionta. The Leafs netminder finished the first period but was out of the game for the start of the second and missed their next game in Philadelphia.
The media was not permitted to talk to Reimer on Thursday, but he was in the building watching practice and looked to be under the weather.
“He felt good at practice yesterday and following the practice, he didn’t feel great so we decided to shut him down for a day or so,” Wilson said. “Bring [Ben]Scrivens back in [from the minors]and go with the Monster in goal until he feels better.”
Gustavsson’s last start in New York was an ugly one, as he was pulled in a 7-0 loss back in January and was subsequently sent to the minors on a conditioning stint.
The Leafs did get some positive lineup news on Thursday, as centre Tim Connolly will play his first game of the season. The Leafs sent Nazem Kadri back to the minors to make room on the roster for Connolly’s debut.
“Instead of him playing eight, nine or 10 minutes, he should be playing 15 to 20 minutes in the American League,” Wilson said of Kadri. “The Marlies are a good team and he can only improve by playing more.”
LEAFS’ PROJECTED LINEUP
Lupul – Connolly – Kessel
MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin
Lombardi – Bozak – Frattin
Steckel – Dupuis – Brown
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Gardiner – Schenn
Liles – Komisarek
RANGERS’ PROJECTED LINEUP
Fedotenko – Richards – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Stepan – Callahan
Wolski – Boyle – Prust
Newbury – Anisimov – Christensen
Girardi – McDonagh
Eminger – Sauer
Erixon – Del Zotto