– Toronto coach Ron Wilson told goaltender James Reimer
during practice Friday that he would get the start Saturday night against the Boston Bruins
Because of that the Maple Leafs' pregame skate at TD Garden had a little different feel this morning for Reimer, who has been out since he was hit in the head by Montreal's Brian Gionta
on Oct. 22 and started suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
"It's more exciting, that's for sure. The last week, week and a half, I've been taking morning skates, but in the other net and staying out there until 1 or longer and working as hard as I can," said Reimer after he was the first goaltender off the ice, which was the first public acknowledgement that he would start. "So today it was a lot more fun to get in there, feel the puck, get a little sweat on and come off when you feel you've had enough shots."
Goalie - TOR
GAA: 2.58 | SVP: 0.912
Wilson said his decision to start Reimer was more about how the netminder felt than anything else.
"He's been stopping the puck and he feels great," said Wilson, who added that he made the decision three days ago to turn to Reimer against the Bruins. "That's the most important thing. It's not so much what I see. He feels he's ready to play, so we're going to get him in there."
The uncertainty of any head injury can drive even the most patient athlete a little batty. Reimer found out firsthand what it really means to be day-to-day.
"I think just waiting and not knowing – all the unknowns that we talked about a couple years ago. I think that's the toughest thing for you, when you don't know when you're going to be back," said Reimer, who was 4-0-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .912 save percentage before the injury. "Is it going to be another day or is going to be another month? So just the unknown factor was probably the toughest -- but also the waiting. You're itching to get back out there and you want to get out there and help the team and they played well with me out. It was a lot of fun to watch them play, but you always want to be out there helping them."
The Leafs went 10-8-1 and didn't go more than two games without acquiring a point in the standings with Jonas Gustavsson
and Ben Scrivens
filling in for Reimer. They start play Saturday just one point back of Boston for first place in the Northeast Division.
"I thought we could [get by without Reimer], but it took us a little while to get going and make the adjustment and for the other goalies to kind of build their confidence," Wilson said. "But I thought we were good enough to withstand that and I thought we had deep enough goaltending to help us through that six weeks or whatever it's been. … And it's allowed us too, to not put any pressure on James at all to come back before he's ready. So he couldn't be more ready than he is right now."
Reimer said it's impossible to simulate game action and atmosphere during practices, so that'll take an adjustment from him Saturday. It won't take anything for his teammates to have faith that he can return to form.
"I think he's been off for a while, so I know he's worked hard," captain Dion Phaneuf
said. "He's worked hard in practice. It's going to be a different speed for him, that's for sure. But he's more than capable of doing the job."