As the Toronto Maple Leafs struggle to regain their composure and secure a late playoff birth, it appears that they’ll get some help from two key players returning from injury.
Jonathan Bernier participated in his first full practice today since suffering a groin injury last week. In his absence, James Reimer has proved incapable of shouldering the Leafs’ playoff hopes – a task he managed successfully last season.
(In fairness to Reimer, it doesn’t help that head coach Randy Carlyle has been openly critical of his play, but judging by the first goal Reimer surrendered to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, it seems that some of the criticism is warranted.)
If Reimer was asked to carry the Leafs through the playoffs at this point, he probably wouldn’t get them past the first round.
I should clarify: the first round of golf. Their chances of making the playoffs have dissipated under Reimer.
Reimer has lost three straight contests, allowing 11 goals in the process. Thus, if Bernier’s even remotely ready to play, it’s safe to assume that he’ll get the next start over Reimer. The Leafs simply don’t have enough room in the standings to play it safe now.
The return of Dave Bolland, who practiced on a regular line rush today, might also be imminent. Prior to suffering a freak foot injury earlier in the season, Bolland’s debut for the Leafs had been largely positive: he recorded ten points (6 goals, 4 assists) in 15 games.
Assuming he was able to keep up such a scoring pace, those would have likely transformed into career numbers for Bolland.
Whenever it happens, Bolland’s return will give the Leafs greater depth at center. They can also hope to capitalize on his desire to finish strong in a contract year – money is always a great motivator.
We’ll have a better sense of when both players are ready to return sometime before tomorrow’s big game against the Montreal Canadiens.
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