James Reimer will not be an active participant in the big series against the Boston Bruins but he is getting close to a return for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said Tuesday that Reimer is expected to be the backup goaltender to Jonas Gustavsson on Saturday in the second of this week's two games against the Bruins. After that, they will consider a possible start for Reimer, who has been out since Oct. 22 with a concussion.
Neither Reimer nor Wilson was willing to offer when that might be, although the Leafs have a busy stretch next week, with games Monday in New York against the Rangers followed by a home game Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils and a game Friday in Washington against the Capitals.
"We haven't set a timetable yet, it just based on how I feel out there," Reimer said after a spirited Leaf practice on Tuesday. "It's just a matter of getting the timing back. A few more practices and we should be ready to go."
Reimer sported a new plain black mask in Tuesday's practice. He said he is trying a new design to see if it's suitable in the wake of his injury but expects to wear his old mask when he returns to action. That leaves the new mask with the paint job celebrating his Optimus Reim nickname in limbo.
One thing for sure is that Reimer will be back in the lineup before any trade is made for Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan. His name surfaced this week because the Ducks need to do something to snap out of a shocking funk that has them 14th in the NHL's Western Conference.
But trading a young rising star like Ryan, 24, is going to take some time. Ducks general manager Bob Murray is getting lots of calls about him and despite the need to improve his team quickly he will take the time to maximize his return.
Leafs GM Brian Burke, who drafted Ryan second overall in 2005 when he was running the Ducks, will be one of the callers, although he did not immediately respond to that question Tuesday. Burke has some young defencemen like Carl Gunnarsson, Keith Aulie or Luke Schenn who could be part of the package it will take to land Ryan, a 30-goal scorer who only has seven goals in 23 games this season. Also checking out Ryan, according to the New York Post, are the New York Rangers.
The immediate concern, though, is the home-and-home series against the Bruins, which starts Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre. If the Leafs' second-place standing in the Eastern Conference is to be taken seriously, they need a good showing against the NHL's hottest team, especially since the Bruins whipped the Leafs 6-2 and 7-0 in their first two meetings.
"We're going to try to forget the way we played last time but we don't want to forget about the end result," Schenn said. "We feel confident."
On the Leafs' injury front, Gunnarsson (finger) and centre Dave Steckel (hand) are still day-to-day. Wilson said a decision on both will be made Wednesday.
"Holding the stick is a bit of an issue, yeah," Gunnarsson said. "I'm feeling better. We'll see [Wednesday]"