Kessel joins team skate

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 PM ET

He’s not ready to take a hit or rip a slapshot, but Phil Kessel is happy to feel like a hockey player again.

The former Boston Bruins sniper took his boldest strides yet with his new team Friday as a full participant in practice at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

Kessel isn’t yet cleared for contact drills, but he’s doing almost everything else.

“It’s so hard to hold back, obviously I want to be out there playing,” said Kessel, who is recovering from a shoulder injury sustained as a Bruin. “I hate watching the games, especially when our team is struggling. It makes you even more anxious.”

Kessel’s absence is even more pronounced on a team desperate for playmakers.

“(In Kessel) you have a go-to guy, someone who will make our power-play better and turn nohing into something,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve been struggling to be creative and he brings that every single night.”

Wilson said the earliest Kessel will be given the green light is early November. After that, he’ll begin contact drills and work his way into game shape.

“He’s the most skilled player we have in the organization right now and there should be a lot of guys trying to clamour for that spot to be his centre man,” Wilson said.

The medical news wasn’t so bright for, Mike Van Ryn who essentially announced the end of his season yesterday. The hard-luck defenceman said he will go under the knife next week in London, Ont., to have osteotomy surgery on his left knee.

In the final year of his contract with the Leafs, Van Ryn will have to have a lengthy rehab of at least six months before he even can consider a comeback.

“You hope a team will give you a shot, but that’s the tough part of the decision, not knowing the future,” said Van Ryn, who played just 27 games last season. “I realize the spot I’m in is tough. You want to play, but at the same time, it’s also about quality of life down the road.”

The procedure is the same one that former Detroit star Steve Yzerman underwent in 2003.


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