Four games have been played since Leo Komarov
returned from a concussion which sidelined him for over a month. Komarov has had to adjust to a lot that has been going on, which has made things a bit of a struggle for the popular forward.
“It’s been harder than I thought it was going to be,” Komarov said. “I’m almost there but still it feels in some situations, it’s just strange and hope to find my game again.”
It’s a common occurrence many players experience when coming back from this type of injury. The timing isn’t there and while many are able to play the game again the same way, the road to getting there isn’t quick, despite getting the clearance to return to action.
“I had just two or three practices before I started playing and we really didn’t practice at all between those games (on the road) either so it was difficult,” Komarov recalls. “The expectations are big. I’m just trying to do my best and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
The extra days of practice following the road trip helped Komarov get the time he needed. He also got shuffled around with different linemates, as other forwards have gone through since Pete Horachek took over as Interim Head Coach. On Wednesday, Komarov played one a line with Trevor Smith and David Clarkson. At Thursday’s practice, Komarov’s line was centred by Mike Santorelli.
There is a lot to process, but Wednesday’s game was a sure sign that he’s on the right track. He still can’t help but feel partly responsible for the changes that have happened at the top. In his mind, the streaks just have to stop.
“If you look at the season it’s been too up and down. We need to keep it more in a straight line. We can’t win nine games and then lose seven or six. We just need to forget it and just play.”
Adjusting to change
With just one game in the books, many players are getting adjusted to new roles they may find themselves in. Lines have been shuffled a few times over. Players have been called up and sent back down. The roles are still being defined and that has the prospect of new opportunities exciting for some.
“Our first practice with Pete was probably one of our best,” said James Reimer. “There’s a little more jump in your step. Whether you are a player, defenceman or goalie, you want to show the talents you have.”
That comes with going into the room and realizing things have changed. Reimer has been through it twice now with the Maple Leafs.
“It’s just a weird day to tell you the truth. It’s usually just weird because the way the guy or person – to be dramatic – changed your life. The person that controlled our passion. Every decision was made through him and he was the one that formed it. All of a sudden he is gone and all of a sudden you are just sitting there, you’re trying to figure out what’s what. What’s the new direction? Where are we going? It’s just weird.”
Richard Panik is primed to see more ice-time, skating on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri. Despite the promotion, Panik was one of the last ones on the ice, working on the little things that he hopes will improve his game.
“You have to stick with habits. Even if things are not going your way then we have to do more and more. So I’m just trying to do that and hopefully it will bring me something more.”