Having lived in the American south for the past few years, Mike Van Ryn enjoyed the warm weather benefits of last week's trip to California and Arizona.
The scenery and temperature take a dip for tonight's trip to Buffalo, but the Maple Leafs defenceman won't complain. Van Ryn got the word yesterday that after 34 days being sidelined by injury, he has been cleared to return to the lineup against the Sabres.
Van Ryn suffered a variety of ailments when he was savagely rear-ended into the boards by Montreal Canadiens' Tom Kostopolous, but the broken bone in his hand has healed enough for him to get a good grip on his stick.
"I sat out and missed a lot of games last year," Van Ryn said yesterday. "I'm tired of sitting out. I feel like I'm ready to jump in. I was having a lot of fun here and I just want to help the team win some more games."
MISSES 13 GAMES
His 13-game absence couldn't have come at a worse time. Van Ryn, who was plagued by injuries when he was with the Florida Panthers, was becoming a strength on the Leafs' blue line with three goals and five assists in his 14 games.
The slowest of his injuries to heal was the broken bone in his hand. But once he shook off the after-effects of his concussion, Van Ryn has been working to keep his conditioning as close to game shape as possible.
"I wanted to get back on the ice as soon as I could after I got cleared for my head," Van Ryn said. "I felt pretty good throughout (his convalescence.) I got to work with our skating coach a lot and became more efficient. We actually got a few things accomplished in the down time and hopefully it carries over."
Leafs coach Ron Wilson wouldn't say which defenceman will sit to make room for Van Ryn, but it won't be recent callup Jamie Sifers, who along with fellow Marlie Jeremy Williams, was solid Monday night against the Islanders.
"If they come up here and play well, we will continue to play them," Wilson said. "Whatever the injury situation is, it doesn't matter."