Barring any major setback, it appears as though Rangers all-star defenseman Brian Leetch will likely make his season debut on Sunday as the Rangers host the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden.
Leetch, who has practiced with the club since Tuesday, made the trip to Montreal and joined the Blueshirts on the ice Saturday morning in the club's morning skate and sounded as though he was ready to test his bruised left ankle.
"I feel good enough that I can go out and play," Leetch told MSG Network's Sam Rosen following practice at the Bell Centre. "It'll be sore for a while, but as long as you can play, it'll eventually get better."
Rangers President, General Manager and Head Coach Glen Sather considered inserting Leetch into the lineup in Montreal but felt that one more day of rest was best for the blueliner.
"I've been debating on what's best for Brian," Sather said. "We decided to start him at home (on Sunday) so he didn't have to go in back-to-back games this weekend. He's in great shape and has worked hard to get back to action. We're looking forward to having him back in the lineup."
Leetch missed the entire pre-season and the club's first nine games after suffering a bruised left ankle after blocking a shot in late summer workouts at the MSG Training Center.
____________________LEETCH RETURNS TO ICE; JOINS TEAMMATES IN PRACTICE
October 28, 2003 - The Rangers welcomed back a familiar face this morning in their gameday skate at Madison Square Garden. Defenseman Brian Leetch, who has been sidelined since before training camp with a bruised left ankle, practiced with the team for the first time all season.
Leetch, who has been skating on his own at the MSG Training Center in Westchester, was cautiously optimistic following his hour-long workout.
"It's getting better," said the Rangers' all-time leading scorer among defensemen. "It's certainly nice to be out there skating with the guys again. Regular skating is fine for me right now," he added. "It's certainly not ready, though. It still hurts. But I've been skating pretty well by myself and figured I would try to get out there and see how it felt."
Leetch, who will wear protective ankle guards over both skates, also said he plans on joining the team on the ice again tomorrow, but knows he will have some limitations in what he'll be able to do.
"I won't be able to do every drill. Skating, shooting, passing ... those will be fine."
Last season, Leetch missed 31 games with a bruise to the same ankle. Having gone through this frustrating experience already, he knows better than to place a timetable on his return.
"I don't think it's right for me to make a prediction (on coming back)," he added. "It's frustrating, but things seem to be progressing a little better, so we'll just have to take it day by day and see how it continues to come along."
Rangers President, General Manager and Head Coach Glen Sather was pleased to see his top blueliner back on the ice but also assessed the situation realistically.
"He's been skating on his own but there is a big difference between skating on your own and skating with the team in a game situation," said Sather. "But, this is a good, positive step for Brian."