Steen returns to practice

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

It was a shot that probably would not have dented a sponge.

But for Alex Steen, at least it marked progress.

While not quite prepared to unleash Brett Hull-like rockets quite yet, the rookie Maple Leafs forward was back on the ice yesterday for the first time since injuring his right thumb during a practice tumble earlier this month.

The morning workout consisted of a few light wristers, some non-chalant stickhandling and some easy skating.

Admittedly it's nothing too strenuous, but at least Steen can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Steen is hoping to be back in the lineup Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.

"There's still a little bit of pain in there, but hopefully I'll be back shortly" said Steen, whose thumb was heavily wrapped with ice. "It all depends on how long it takes for it to settle down.

"It was just good to be back out there and try to work the puck around a little bit. It was really the first time I've felt comfortable enough to try it."

Steen has not played since the Leafs were thrashed 8-2 by the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 17.

While Steen has made progress, Nik Antropov and Eric Lindros remain on the shelf indefinitely.

Antropov, who already has undergone a pair of reconstructive knee surgeries in his young career, continues to battle pain in his knee, an ailment he jokingly refers to as a "lower body injury."

Claiming it is nowhere as bad as those previous knee woes, Antropov still doesn't know when he'll be able to resume skating again.

CAUGHT A RUT

"I was killing a penalty against Anaheim (Dec. 12) when I caught a rut in the ice," Antropov said. "It's getting stronger, though. The rest has really helped it.

"It's still frustrating though. Every year it seems something happens to me."

Lindros, meanwhile, continues to battle ligament damage in his wrist.


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