Gustavsson is eager to make up for lost time

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

Jonas Gustavsson has made it as far as the exercise bike after minor heart surgery. Now, he is set to return to the ice this weekend and take part in a pre-season game by next week.

There was relief when the shy 6-foot-3 Swede walked into the dressing room at the MasterCard Centre yesterday, with his now-familiar scraggly beard and backwards baseball cap.

"Of course, you're scared, but the doctors told me right away there is no (long-term) danger," Gustavsson said. "They calmed me right down and said it was an easy procedure. Of course, being off the ice five or six days is bad for me, but I'll just start over and work hard."

Gustavsson, who felt dizzy on a bike during fitness testing a week ago and departed practice via ambulance, had a cardiac ablation performed Tuesday at Sunnybrook Hospital to restore normal heartbeat functions. Catheter wires with electrode tips were inserted into a blood vessel in his groin through to the just inside of the heart, burning a small scar to restore proper electric pathways.

Part of putting the 24-year-old at ease was reminding him that training camp teammate Robert Slaney had the same procedure done last month, as did Marlies defenceman Joe Ryan and NHLer Barry Tallackson last season. All played within a few days.

Gustavsson could be in pads by today, as part of keeping him off skates was to guard against infection from the groin-area incision. Coach Ron Wilson doesn't think the goalie has lost any ground in his battle with Joey MacDonald to back up Vesa Toskala.

"Jonas was in a couple of scrimmages, in the rookie tournament and hopefully he'll get in two or three exhibition games," Wilson said of the Leafs playing three next weekend. "Vesa is our No. 1 right now and it's important he play well to finish off the exhibition season. But we have plenty of time to get Jonas acclimated to the North American game."

Centre Rickard Wallin, Gustavsson's teammate with Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League, admires the youngster's ability to handle adversity, from the death of his mother in the spring in the midst of the SEL playoffs and world championship to his medical mishaps the past week.

"His biggest strength is being mentally tough," Wallin said. "I don't know how you can play with those kinds of things in your head, but on the ice, he blocked it out completely.

"He feels bad because he missed some time and wants to show everyone what he can do out there. But he has time now and the most important thing is that he's all right."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos