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Connolly Nearing Return

by Matt Iaboni / Toronto Maple Leafs

It appears the Maple Leafs will be getting centre Tim Connolly back soon. Connolly took part in Monday’s full practice on a line with Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill and while he doesn’t appear set to play Tuesday against Phoenix, he could return Thursday in Nashville.

“I’ve seemed to really turn a corner here and it’s only a matter of days before I’m back ready to go,” Connolly said. “I wasn’t at 100 per cent out there today but felt pretty good so we will see how I feel tomorrow.”

The last few days have been very encouraging for Connolly who despite the upper body injury continues to remain upbeat and positive.

“When it happened it was a bit frustrating but after that you have to battle mentally and be mentally strong and positive because being negative isn’t going to do you any good so just come to the rink and take it one day at a time,” he said.

Connolly has played six games this season with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. When he returns Connolly feels that the 5-on-5 chemistry won’t be an issue but it will be on special teams where extra work will have to be done.

“The biggest thing for me is special teams chemistry,” Connolly noted. “You want to know where each other is, that’s puck retrieval, where each other is to relieve pressure and those are the things you need to find chemistry on.”

The Lucky Bunny: While the Kessel line has produced 22 goals this season, the line of Nikolai Kulemin-Mikhail Grabovski-Clarke MacArthur has totaled just 13 with Kulemin stuck on two after 17 games.

It has been a struggle for the trio this season. One of their superstitions is to pass around a glass Russian bunny to the last goal scorer who keeps it before passing it on to the next goal scorer. It’s a lucky charm of sorts.

“We brought it out because I was the last guy to score and then I scored into our own net so I think we are done with that thing,” MacArthur said laughing.

“It was a gift from my agent because last year it was the year of the bunny,” said Grabovski.

“I think we put the bunny in the garbage right now,” Grabovski said with a laugh.
Grabovski went on to say that the bunny was Kulemin’s and he should be asked any further questions about the whereabouts of the bunny.

When asked what his line needs to do to get better Grabovski admitted that all three might need to relax.

“I think we are very tight right now, Clarkey, me and Kuli,” Grabovski said. “When Kuli doesn’t score he is tight right now and I think if we work during practice we can do best on the ice.”

Wilson’s take: Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf did not practice Monday but there is nothing to be concerned about said Ron Wilson:
“It was a maintenance day and he will be there tomorrow,” Wilson said.

On the struggles of the Grabovski line: “They just need to play their game, relax, they could be better, they need to get more pucks on net instead of over-passing it,” Wilson said.

When he was asked who would start in net against the Coyotes Wilson responded:

“A goalie. He will be wearing two pads, a mask probably with a Leaf logo on it.”

On another matter Wilson said NHL goalies should be better protected in the wake of the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller and the Brian Gionta hit on James Reimer.

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