Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak will return to the lineup Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bozak missed 12 games with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury Oct. 25 in a game against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. He will center the Maple Leafs' top line between Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk.
"We all know what he brings to the lineup. He plays in all situations and plays big minutes for us. He's a really well-rounded player. We're happy to have him back," van Riemsdyk said. "Me, Phil and Bozie have some good chemistry. So if that's the way they decide to go tonight, I think we can do some good things."
Prior to the injury, Bozak had three goals and six points in 11 games. His return comes at a perfect time for a Toronto team that has won three of four but scored only three times in the past two games.
"Hopefully I can help out out there and play well," Bozak said. "I might be a step behind for the first period, but hopefully it doesn't take that long [to catch up]."
Toronto's first line has been reunited just as its second line has begun to come together. In two games since returning from a three-game suspension, second-line center Nazem Kadri has found chemistry with linemates David Clarkson and Joffrey Lupul. Those three players have scored two of the Maple Leafs' past three goals and Lupul scored the shootout winner Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Clarkson has gotten particularly hot, scoring twice in his past three games after being goalless in his first 10 this season.
"The whole time I was getting the chances, they just weren't going in. Then finally you get a couple of bounces go your way. I think it comes in bunches," Clarkson said. "Throughout a season, you're going to go through ups and downs. It's how you handle it."
James Reimer will get the start for Toronto two nights after making 49 saves in the 2-1 shootout win over Washington. With Bozak back, Peter Holland, who was acquired Nov. 16 from the Anaheim Ducks, will sit.
While the Maple Leafs are starting to get their forward units healthy, the Blue Jackets will have a healthy defensive corps for the first time in a while. All eight Columbus defensemen skated Monday, including Dalton Prout, who returned to practice over the weekend after dealing with a strained back. James Wisniewski missed Columbus' 6-2 road loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday with an illness but is expected back Monday in Toronto.
Forward Nathan Horton continues to skate with the Blue Jackets after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, but isn't expected to make his Columbus debut just yet. Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start his ninth start in Columbus' past 10 games. Forward Jared Boll left practice early Monday and is considered doubtful.
Here are the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs on Monday:
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger
Boone Jenner - Artem Anisimov - Cam Atkinson
Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Jack Skille
Blake Comeau - Michael Chaput - Matt Calvert
Jack Johnson - Ryan Murray
Nikita Nikitin - Fedor Tyutin
James Wisniewski - Dalton Prout
Scratched: Tim Erixon, David Savard
Injured: Nathan Horton (shoulder), Jared Boll (undisclosed), Brandon Dubinsky (foot), Marian Gaborik (knee), Cody Bass (thumb)
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson
Mason Raymond - Jay McClement - Nikolai Kulemin
Colton Orr - Jerred Smithson - Frazer McLaren
Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
Morgan Rielly - Mark Fraser
Scratched: Peter Holland, Trevor Smith, Paul Ranger
Injured: Dave Bolland (ankle)