(CP) Toronto -- Doug Gilmour was smiling and kidding around with the media but you just knew it was killing him not to be in the lineup tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre.
It was supposed to be a night to remember for Gilmour and his beloved Leaf fans, a night very much like the one Wendel Clark had in March 1996 when he returned to the blue and white and rocked Maple Leaf Gardens with a goal on his second shift.
Gilmour's return was put on hold by an injury to his left knee last Thursday in Calgary, his first game with the Leafs after being acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline.
On Tuesday, Gilmour held his first formal media session following his untimely injury.
|Gilmour will do his best to get back into the lineup.|
"You just can't sit here and put your head down and say: `Well, what if. . .' I'm not about that," said Gilmour, 39. "I'm just looking at the positive side. I'll just come and watch the games, be part of it, and learn the team better."
The prognosis at this point remains the same, four to six weeks, which would put him somewhere near the beginning of the second round. That's if, of course, Toronto wins its first round, which is looking like it is going to be versus either New Jersey or Philadelphia.
"I'm just hoping that our team does well and I have a chance to play again," Gilmour said.
Gilmour says another MRI in about two weeks will shed more light on the extent of his injury. He did say both the MCL and the ACL in his knee are affected, which isn't great news.
Since he's hinted strongly at this being his last NHL season, Gilmour admitted he'd be willing to play through the kind of pain that he otherwise probably wouldn't if he was coming back next year.
"If it comes down to that, yes," Gilmour said about playing through the injured knee. "Again, we don't know what the ACL is like because of all the blood and fluid that was in there. If it's 25 per cent, 50 per cent, we don't know. If it is somewhere like that, yes I'll try to play with it. And at the end of the year I'm going to have lots of time to rehab."
Gilmour was devastated for a few days after the freak injury, which occurred when Calgary's Dave Lowry backed up into him early in the second period. Gilmour still doesn't know how he got hurt on the innocent-looking play.
"Not at all. Even when I watch the replay I can't see where my leg got caught up," Gilmour said.
No one will soon forget the clip of Gilmour struggling back to the bench while crawling on his knees.
"I could tell something was wrong," he says. "I could feel it. I was on the bench, I sat there for about a minute and a half. I walked off the bench. (Athletic therapist) Chris (Broadhurst) asked me to drag my toe and when I did that I knew something was wrong."
He remains thrilled nevertheless with this chance to return to Toronto, where he played some of his best career hockey from 1992 to '97.
"When Montreal asked me if I wanted to go somewhere, there was only one place I wanted to go," Gilmour said.
"It was neat to put the uniform back on, it really was."
And Gilmour owes a dept of gratitude to Habs GM Andre Savard, who got only a sixth-round draft pick in return while losing a veteran player with Montreal still in the playoff hunt.
"It was brought up to me by Andre," Gilmour says of the trade. "He said, `There's a couple of teams that are looking at you. Would you like to go?' He said, `Do we want to move you? No. But if you would like to go somewhere, then we would do it for you.' And that's how it worked out."
And you can be sure if the Leafs fall behind in their first-round series, Gilmour will try his hardest to come back earlier and play through the pain.
"I can say yes, for sure," Gilmour responded when asked if he would play with the knee not fully healed. "But don't forget the conditioning part of it, I have to make sure that I'm there. Mentally, everybody can go into the playoffs and be strong. But you have to have the legs as well."
In the meantime, the former Leafs captain is hopeful his 39-year-old knee will heal fast enough to help out his team.
"The positive side is that I've never had a knee problem. Let's hope I can get this back as soon as possible."