Healing Maple Leafs Tomas Kaberle and Michael Peca have seen more ice packs than ice time of late.
So the sight of both players leisurely skating around the Air Canada Centre yesterday morning must have come as a relief for coach Paul Maurice, who is poised to welcome back his two rehabbing veterans to the lineup whenever they feel fit enough.
While neither player can put his finger on a return date, both took considerable steps forward yesterday.
Kaberle laced up the blades for the first time since being decked by the New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen on March 2.
Having suffered a concussion, back spasms and neck pains during the controversial incident, the veteran blue-liner has been itching to return to action.
"It was nice to be back on the ice again," Kaberle said. "My legs are a bit tired, but that is to be expected when you have not skated in 11 days."
Kaberle was scheduled to undergo an MRI today. Should that go well and he's able to continue skating, he might accompany the team on its coming trip that features stops in Washington Friday and Montreal Saturday.
General manager John Ferguson cautioned that such a move would be contingent, of course, on Kaberle's health.
"But if he's able to keep going out on the ice and he feels good, there is a good chance he would go along," Ferguson said.
While he admits still not completely "feeling like myself," at least Kaberle has not been plagued by the post-concussion syndrome that kept teammate Carlo Colaiacovo out of the lineup for months last season.
"I have to be careful," Kaberle said. "You never know what goes on with head injuries, and I don't want this to be the final season of my career."
As for Peca, he had skated on a couple of occasions in recent days but this was his first time out on the ice in full equipment since he fractured his right leg during a game in Chicago on Dec. 22. He is expected to receive a more intense on-ice workout today under the watchful eye of assistant coach Dallas Eakins.
"I haven't done anything like serious stops and starts as of yet, so it's still tough to tell when I might be back," said Peca, who is believed to be at least two weeks away.