The Toronto Maple Leafs have waited nearly four months for Dave Bolland to return to their lineup. It seem’s they’ll have to wait a little longer.
The veteran forward practised Wednesday but was wearing a maroon jersey, meaning he wasn’t allowed to participate in full contact and making it unlikely he’ll will be in the lineup Thursday night when Toronto visits the New York Islanders in the first game for both teams following the Olympic break.
Bolland, who suffered a severed ankle tendon in a game Nov. 2, had resumed practising with the Leafs earlier this month. But he stumbled late during Tuesday’s session, grimacing in pain.
“It’s one where we felt that he took a step back (Tuesday) so we felt it would be best suited he didn’t participate on a line (Wednesday) as far as practising with a group,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “To say that it’s a bad sign, well, it’s not a positive.
“But it’s not a huge negative. I don’t want you to read into it that it’s something we can’t deal with.”
Bolland maintained Wednesday his situation remains day-to-day. And while he did say he had a misstep Tuesday, Bolland didn’t reveal any further details.
“Sometimes in situations on the ice you’re going to get those things,” he said. “I just had a little bit of a fall there but that’s what’s going to happen in a game.
“That’s what you have to get ready for.”
Carlyle said Bolland will accompany the Leafs on their two-game road trip versus the Islanders and Montreal on Saturday night. Bolland plans to participate in Thursday’s skate before deciding whether he’ll play.
Bolland added he’ll return to the lineup when he’s convinced he’s healthy enough to deal with the rigours of game conditions.
“I’d rather be ready for the long road than being in and out of the lineup and not going,” Bolland said. “You’ve got to be 100 per cent getting back in the lineup, you don’t want to be a liability out there.
“It’s never fun watching the guys play sitting at home on the couch seeing what’s going on. You want to be out there right now. I want to be out there. I wish I could’ve been out there a month ahead but it’s about getting it stronger and making sure it’s ready.”
Toronto (32-22-6, 70 points) has fared well despite Bolland’s injury, entering the Olympic break on an 11-2-1 run.
“I’m ready (to return),” Bolland said. “With watching and seeing what’s going on with the guys and seeing them win and keeping it rolling, that’s the big thing.
“For myself, my confidence is going to be high when I get out there. I want to contribute as much as I can to this team and to help it keep going.”
Meantime, leading scorer Phil Kessel (31 goals, 34 assists) was back on the ice Wednesday for the first time since suiting up with teammate James van Riemsdyk (24 goals, 23 assists) for the U.S. at the Sochi Winter Games. Van Riemsdyk didn’t skate but did work out with his teammates Tuesday.
Carlyle said Kessel, who didn’t speak to reporters after practice, had the same option, but opted to take Tuesday off instead.
There’s been persistent talk van Riemsdyk suffered a hand injury in Sochi, but Carlyle said both players have been cleared medically by Leafs doctors.
Carlyle was asked how Kessel looked in practice.
“I would say Phil’s not an energetic individual to the start of practice,” Carlyle said, drawing chuckles from the assembled media. “I don’t know how else to put it.”
The reporter then followed up by saying Kessel looked more energetic near the end of the session.
“That seems to be how Phil approaches practice,” Carlyle added with a grin.