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Leafs' Bozak nearing return from hamstring injury, hopes he can face Capitals @NHLdotcom

TORONTO - Tyler Bozak is anxious to get back into the Toronto Maple Leafs' lineup after missing almost a month with a hamstring injury.

But that doesn't mean he's making any promises about playing Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Bozak was one of just three players to skate Friday and said he was fine despite leaving the ice earlier than Mark Fraser and Frazer McLaren.

"It's all good, just a little bit of a hard skate," Bozak said Friday. "It's needed, and hopefully I'll feel good tomorrow morning and go from there."

Bozak has missed 11 straight games dating back to the Leafs' game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 25. He has been nearing a return all week, but there's no guarantee he'll play against Washington.

He said he's not going to rush back if the hamstring doesn't feel right.

"You want to get back out there but at the same time, it's a long season," Bozak said. "There's a ton of hockey still to be played, so you don't want to push yourself and tweak something or get hurt again or even just not be able to play to your ability and hold the team back a little bit."

The plan was for Bozak to get treatment Friday night and then again Saturday morning.

"Hopefully it all works well," the centre said.

Roommate, friend and regular linemate Phil Kessel has been asking Bozak "quite a bit" when he'll be back. In Bozak's absence, Kessel has played on a line centred by Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and, most recently, Peter Holland.

Still, Bozak said Kessel doesn't want him to come back too soon. And there's a need for some self-restraint, too, given that hamstring injuries can linger.

"The hamstring you use quite a bit in this sport," Bozak said. "Whatever you do, it's probably something that's going to nag for a little bit so I want to get most of it healed up before I try to do too much strenuous activity."

NOTES ??? The Leafs did dry-land workouts Friday, the morning after losing 4-2 to the Nashville Predators. Coach Randy Carlyle wondered after the game if he and the coaching staff pushed players too hard in practices or morning skates and said it's their job to monitor fatigue. ... Carlyle did not address the media Friday.

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