Comeback time? Be-Leaf it

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Scrambling to find something wooden to knock on yesterday at the Stampede Corral, Toronto Maple Leafs centre Wayne Primeau might have been cursing the concrete walls.

He must have felt cursed at times during his two-and-a-half seasons as a member of the Calgary Flames.

Ankle injuries limited him to 67 games in two full campaigns dressed in the Flaming C. The last one was so devastating, people wondered if he'd be forced to retire.

But he never quit.

Even when the year seemed over after a Dion Phaneuf slapshot ended his season, Primeau committed himself to coming back.

"During the season last year when I was injured, I worked with (Flames strength and conditioning coach) Rich Hesketh a lot trying to make myself available for the playoffs and give myself an outside chance," said the 33-year-old Primeau, who was traded to his hometown Maple Leafs in the off-season for Anton Stralman and Colin Stuart. "I never quit working out. I was on the bike once or twice a day, trying to hopefully come back.

"It still wasn't right after the season finished. It made for a long, long summer."

And it made for a rocky start with the team he grew up cheering.

The Leafs had an early 0-7-1 record and Primeau had trouble proving he belonged in the lineup as he dealt with a minor shoulder injury and the effects of being out of the game for almost 10 months.

"It was tough ... getting timing back, getting my feet, getting my legs under me," said Primeau, whose minutes are on the rise on the third line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Lee Stempniak. "I feel things have finally made a turn in the right direction."


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