Janssen pulls no punches

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:26 PM ET

If you take the time to read between the lines, it is evident that the Maple Leafs' brass would like to see Tomas Kaberle wait until the weekend to return to action.

But in the unlikely event that Kaberle shows up for the morning skate today "feeling 100%" and gets the green light to suit up against the New Jersey Devils, don't expect Cam Janssen to show him any favouritism.

Far from it.

Asked if he would take the opportunity to hit Kaberle tonight during the highly anticipated grudge match between the Leafs and Devils at the Air Canada Centre, Janssen pulled no punches.

"Absolutely," the Devils pugilist told reporters in New Jersey yesterday before joining his teammates for the flight to Toronto. "If he has got the puck and I need to make the hit on him, well, yeah, I'm going to do it.

"I'm not looking to go head hunting or anything like that. I'm just want to go out there and play my game. I'm sure if I'm skating down the wing with the puck, he's going to come hit me too. That's obvious."

Of course, there remain a couple of considerable obstacles standing in the way of a potential Janssen-Kaberle reunion.

For one thing, the Leafs are quick to point out that Janssen spends most of his time collecting splinters on the bench. In 42 games played this season, Janssen is averaging just four minutes, 14 seconds of ice time per outing.

In the words of Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft: "We don't need to worry about a guy (Janssen) who's going to be on the ice a minute and a half."

More importantly, Kaberle's availability still is very much doubtful.

Having suffered a concussion from Janssen's highly publicized late hit on March 2, Kaberle is itching to get his revenge on the scoreboard by helping his team beat the Devils tonight.

But both his advisors and team officials have suggested that it might be better for him to push back his return until Friday's game in Buffalo, at the earliest.

While the odds are against him playing tonight, Kaberle said a decision will be made prior to the game.

"We still need clearance from him and the doctor," coach Paul Maurice said. "His own clearance is more important. If the doctors say yes but he says he is not ready, he won't play.

"There is absolutely no way we'll put him in if he's not 100%."

Kaberle did take part in a full practice yesterday for the first time since the incident and was optimistic that his return was close.

"It didn't go too bad," he said. "It was nice to be out there with the boys again.

"If I feel 100%, why wouldn't I play (tonight)?" he added. "I'm getting better every day."

Kaberle does not expect his teammates to seek revenge.

"When the hit is there I think they will hit the guys," he said. "But I don't think the boys will be looking for (Janssen)."

Whether he plays or not, Kaberle himself could very well be looking for Janssen after the game. The Leafs defenceman admitted he might talk to his assailant at some point this evening.

"That would be awesome. I would love to talk to him," Janssen said. "Once he talks to me, hopefully he realizes I'm a different guy off the ice."


Videos

Photos