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Andersen plays full AHL game, second in work toward Maple Leafs return

Goalie makes 34 saves in shootout loss Saturday, 'felt rust' in first time back Thursday

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

Frederik Andersen played a full game for Toronto of the American Hockey League on Saturday, continuing to work his way back to the Toronto Maple Leafs from a lower-body injury.

Andersen made 34 saves in 64:32 during a 5-4 shootout loss to Manitoba, the Winnipeg Jets' AHL affiliate. He stopped one of three shots in the shootout, his second AHL game in three days.

"Today I tried to push it a little bit, push the intensity a bit," Andersen said Saturday. "I thought the intensity got better and better as the game went on. Playing hard on every puck. And just trusting to have energy to play the full game. It was great to have some game action and play around with it and definitely work on how to have the right mindset."

Andersen said he hoped to return to the Maple Leafs before the end of the regular season;

Toronto (34-13-6) is first in the seven-team Scotia North Division and has clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It has three regular-season games remaining, starting at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, NHL.TV). They finish the regular season at the Jets on May 14.

"If I can get game action in, great," he said. "But we'll see."

Andersen allowed two goals on 14 shots in a 5-3 AHL loss to Manitoba on Thursday. He played 30:52 and left the game in the second period trailing 2-1.

"His play yesterday, and really, this stint [in the AHL], is about getting back into game action and building up his workflow to be ready to play an NHL game," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said Friday.

Andersen said Thursday it took him some time to get adjusted in his first game since playing for the Maple Leafs against the Calgary Flames on March 19.

"I felt rust in the first (period) and early in the game," Andersen said. "Just trusting myself, I think, and I got better as we went on with the game. Knowing my spots, being more calm and quiet with my feet, small things like that, just kind of got better as we went on, and I think that's the main goal of playing games here, of trying to get back up to speed.

"The plan was to play 30 minutes and try to dip my toes in a little bit, try to get some game action. I thought that was a good step in my road to coming back to playing, and I think that was the main goal for the day, and obviously keep progressing from here."

Andersen participated in a full practice with the Maple Leafs for the second time in the past six weeks Wednesday. He said last week he has been dealing with knee issues and has embraced the time to heal.

"Really good actually, so we'll see how [the knee] responds," Andersen said. "… It's a good way to get into that game action and test it out. Have to stick with the process of going day by day and trusting that in the end it's going to pay off and I'll be back at my best level. Just getting back into game routines again was nice, and the competitiveness and that. It's been a while since I played a game last, and I'm just happy to be progressing this well at this point."

Toronto Marlies coach Greg Moore said Thursday of Andersen, "He was great. Obviously it's been a while for him. His attitude and his energy coming in was really positive. He was really happy to get into a game. I couldn't have asked anything more of him."

A start date for the playoffs has not been announced.

"It's great to see him progressing and getting closer," Toronto captain John Tavares said. "Obviously we like our team, especially when we have a full lineup."

Andersen missed four games with a lower-body injury Feb. 22-March 1 before returning and playing seven of the Maple Leafs' next eight games. He said March 18 that the injury that caused him to miss those games was bothering him when he returned.

Andersen is 13-8-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage in 23 NHL games (22 starts) this season.

"The eye is just really to get Fred back up and running here, and we've got to take that one step at a time," Keefe said Thursday. "The first step in that process is just to increase his workload. He's feeling good and was taking on a lot in our practices, which has got him ready for the next step here."

Goalies Jack Campbell and David Rittich have been playing for Toronto in Andersen's absence.. Campbell is 16-2-2 with a 2.11 GAA, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts in 20 games. Rittich is 1-1-1 with a 2.72 GAA and an .888 save percentage in four games (three starts) since he was acquired in a trade with the Flames for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft on April 11.

"The biggest part is what we've got going on here is on the team," Andersen said. "I think we have really special opportunities here to do something special this year. I think the group we have here is amazing, they've done a lot of hard work, and it's rolling well. The biggest motivator for me is just being part of that. I want to contribute to that, and I want to be with the group."

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