Return date still unclear for Leafs’ starting goaltender Andersen

Return date still unclear for Leafs' Andersen

TORONTO — It’s remains a mystery when Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen will return from an undisclosed injury.

Andersen won’t dress for Toronto’s home game Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers. His status for a Thursday night’s contest in Nashville is also still in question.

“We don’t know yet, but we’ll see,” Andersen said of playing against Nashville following a full morning skate Tuesday.

Curtis McElhinney was scheduled to start against the Panthers with Garret Sparks due to back up. The game has huge playoff implications for the Leafs, who enter action holding third in the Atlantic division, just one point up on Boston and two ahead of Tampa with a meeting against the Lightening next week.

Andersen was injured early in a loss to Buffalo on Saturday when he was bumped in the head by Sabres forward William Carrier. He played the final 17 and a half minutes of the opening period, despite feeling slightly off, before exiting after consultation with medical personnel in the first intermission of the eventual 5-2 defeat.

The Leafs haven’t divulged specific details of the injury, describing it only as an upper-body ailment. Anderson is listed as day-to-day.

The 27-year-old practised briefly Monday then participated in the team’s entire morning skate Tuesday, simulating the workout as if he would play. He felt “pretty good”, but wouldn’t rush a return either.

“I think any time you come back from an injury you just want to make sure you feel as close to where you want to be,” Andersen said. “And obviously at this time of year you don’t want to waste too much time getting there.

“You want to work hard and make sure you get there as quick as possible.”

The Leafs will have only seven games left in 12 days after facing the Panthers, who beat Toronto 7-2 earlier this month.

After facing Nashville on Thursday, the Leafs have a divisional clash Saturday with the Detroit Red Wings one final time at Joe Louis Arena. Then they have a back-to-back early next week against Buffalo and the Washington Capitals.

That means Toronto has little time left to get its No. 1 goalie back as it scraps for points to get into the playoffs.

“I don’t get any input in any of that stuff so they’re going to let me know when he’s ready,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said referring to the team’s medical staff.

Toronto will be counting on McElhinney to shine in a prominent role, one he’s rarely taken in a career that dates back to the 2007-08 season.

The 33-year-old looked shaky at times in his last start March 23, but still made 30 saves in a 4-2 win over New Jersey.

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press