The Toronto Maple Leafs resume their NHL schedule next Thursday, when they visit the New York Islanders, but whether injured forward Dave Bolland is in the lineup remains uncertain.
Bolland’s agent, Anton Thun, says the Mimico, Ont., native still needs one more doctor’s visit to get final clearance to return to game action.
While the rest of his teammates headed for vacation destinations during the 2014 Sochi Olympics break, Bolland spent his time skating with his former junior team, the London Knights of the OHL.
“I was inside, you can tell by my tan,” Bolland joked Thursday. “I was mostly inside the rink doing my rehab and trying to get back in that game mode. It’s close. Getting there. I’m on my way upward.”
Bolland, who has been out since Nov. 2 recovering from a skate cut to his left ankle, travelled with the Leafs (32-22-6) on their final pre-Olympic road trip to Florida.
At the time, head coach Randy Carlyle said there was a 50-per-cent chance Bolland could play, but following Thursday’s practice, the forward was still dealing with pain.
“You’re always going to feel the pain,” said Bolland, who still participated in a full practice, including a 10-minute bag skate.
“I know coming off the ice every day you’re feeling pain and it’s always aching and bugging you. It’s never going to be fine. I know every day I come off the ice, I’m always in the trainer’s room getting ice.”
Dion Phaneuf knows what Bolland is going through, having dealt with his own skate cut during the 2010-11 season. Phaneuf had his MCL severed during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers and missed nearly a month.
“Any time you come back from any injury, you want to test it in a game because games are a lot different than practice,” the veteran defenceman said.
“You can ask any guy that comes back from anything … game speed is different than in practice. It takes you a little while to get back to feeling 100 per cent, but I’m sure he’s going to come back. … I just know when we get him back, it’s a big boost for our team.”
When Bolland does return, Carlyle said he would be eased into the lineup, likely sparing him from penalty-killing duties. However, the addition of Bolland gives Carlyle added depth.
“Any time you can add [a player] of that calibre, it does change the makeup of your lineup,” the coach said.
“We think that Bolland and Mason Raymond and whoever we decide to put there [give] us a 2A- and a 2B-type of offensive numbers. That’s what we’re really looking for.”
Prior to the injury, Bolland was on pace for his best season with six goals and 10 points in 15 games. But after missing 45 games, he doesn’t expect to pick up where he left off.
“My expectations will be a little bit lower and things won’t be as high but I know gradually, the first two or three games, I’ll be back in the mix,” he said.