TORONTO - Dmitry Yushkevich is pushing closer to returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs and not much can stop him.
Yushkevich met with five doctors and team management Tuesday afternoon, with the blessing of his family, to get all the information necessary to go ahead with a comeback attempt from the blood clot in his leg.
The tough defenceman is known for playing through pain but this is different. He feels fine even though the threat of serious injury does exist. The question remains why would he come back?
"It sounds ridiculous but I love hockey so much. I want to be part of this team. I've been in the organization for seven years and I've been through the hard times and the best times and I have a feeling this team has a chance to go all the way," Yushkevich said.
"I want to be part of this, not just sitting in the dressing room watching it on TV and I think I deserve it."
If all goes well the team could have its best rearguard back in the lineup before the playoffs but only if things keep progressing positively. In two weeks he will be evaluated again.
"I'm pretty sure I made myself clear today. I understand the risk and I'm willing to play," Yushkevich said.
The decision won't solely be Yushkevich's. He has to jump through a number of hoops that allow him to play safely. Pat Quinn will not give the go ahead if his defenceman's enthusiasm for the game puts his life in jeopardy.
"We're all optimistic," Quinn said. "It is a decision that we will clearly evaluate at that moment and we're working towards something that will have a very high probability that it can work. There has to be the same risk as with an average guy and we won't fool around with that threshold."
The blood clot, which has kept him out of the lineup since February 5, is shrinking. His medication will be adjusted with blood thickeners and thinners so that he can handle body contact.
"(The clot) has diminished in size since the first three or four days with medication," Leafs executive Bill Watters said before commenting on why a meeting was scheduled. "We wanted to get updated as to where we stood. If he had his way he would have played five days after the incident."
The Leafs didn't add a defenceman at the deadline, even though they had talks with a number of clubs. Yushkevich was thought to be somewhere in the picture.
"We weren't terribly aware (of his ability to come back) but we were familiar with what was going on and we understood there was a chance that we may get him some time," Watters said.
Yushkevich first noticed the ailment while riding the stationary bike prior to the Leafs game against the Minnesota Wild. It isn't believed that the injury occurred during action or that the condition is hereditary. The origin remains a mystery.