TORONTO - With their offence already sputtering, the last thing the Maple Leafs need is a prologued absence by Kris Versteeg.
But the left winger was a no-show at Friday’s practice at the MasterCard Centre. Coach Ron Wilson says Versteeg was to visit the doctor later in the day. Wilson also hinted an MRI might be needed for further evaluation, which was the case for Colby Armstrong earlier in the week with a finger injury that has now sidelined him four to six weeks.
“You’re always concerned, but I’m not going to speculate,” Wilson said of Versteeg.
Versteeg aggravated his back in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Florida, missed the 2-0 loss in Boston and it obviously puts his status for Saturday’s home game against the Rangers in doubt. But what’s happening to the Leafs after a comparative easy ride with injuries in nine games is to be expected as the games mount.
“Everyone is big in our league, it’s hard hitting, yet both of our injuries are kind of freakish things," Wilson said. "Kris has had some issues with his back, it gets sore every once in awhile and he needs to rest it.”
If he doesn’t play, the Leafs’ forward combinations will look very much the way they finished against Boston, with top scorers Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur trying to ignite some slumping scorers on their lines. MacArthur is with Mikhail Grabovski and Marlies’ call-up Luca Caputi, while Kessel tries to bring centre Tylr Bozak and left winger Nikolai Kulemin along for the ride.
Of the Leafs 23 goals, 13 have come from Kessel and MacArthur and another four from checkers Tim Brent and Colton Orr. Speaking of Orr, he tried out the new pink-accented skates for breast cancer awareness he'll be wearing against the Rangers and plans to auction them afterwards.
Toronto will be meeting the Rangers for the third time in a little more than two weeks, having won and lost one, but with the advantage of New York playing Friday night against Carolina. Toronto will soon be the only NHL team not yet faced with a back-to-back situation, their first encounter coming next week.
“We’ve talked about taking advantage of our October schedule,” said goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is likely to start against New York.