Versteeg returns to Leafs

The Leafs will have Kris Versteeg back in the lineup tonight after dealing with a sore back all...

The Leafs will have Kris Versteeg back in the lineup tonight after dealing with a sore back all week. (QMI Agency/Ernest Doroszuk)

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:38 PM ET

TORONTO - On this Halloween weekend, Leafs Nation received a big treat when it was announced after Saturday’s morning skate that forward Kris Versteeg will be returning to the line-up to help Toronto take on the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Versteeg missed both Thursday night’s 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins and Friday’s practice with back issues. But he was back on the ACC ice for a spirited warm-up to what will be the third meeting between the Leafs (5-3-1) and the Rangers (4-4-1) this season. Toronto loss its last match with the Rangers, 2-1 on Oct. 21.

“I went through the tests and did everything and I guess I’ll be going tonight,” Versteeg told a throng of reporters after the morning skate. “I feel good right now and this (back injury) is something you have to fight through and just go out there and play your best and do what you can to help your team.

“I think those days off definitely helped, so hopefully I’ll have a little more jump tonight,” Versteeg added.

Having Versteeg back in the line-up will be a big boost for the struggling Leafs, who have lost four of their past five games and will be trying to take advantage of a Rangers team coming off back-to-back losses and playing its third game in four nights. Though he has only scored once this season, Versteeg has been logging the most ice time of any Toronto forward, with 20:30 minutes per game.

Joining Versteeg in the Leafs line-up is centre Christian Hanson, who will be making his first start with the big club this season. Though coach Ron Wilson was tight-lipped about whose spot Hanson would be taking, he did say the forward’s big body would be a big bonus for the Leafs.

“He brings size and speed,” Wilson said of Hanson. “If we can, we want to wear the Rangers down. He’s been a lot more physical than he has in the past and that’s what we’ll be looking for from him tonight. We just want to get bigger tonight and Christian is the biggest player we have down there (on the Marlies), 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.”

Hanson has one goal and three assists in seven games with the Marlies this season.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere will be back in net for the Leafs. He was between the pipes for Toronto’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Rangers on Oct. 15 but was sat in favour of Jonas Gustavsson in the 2-1 loss on Oct. 21. Gustavsson was also in net for the loss to the Bruins on Thursday.


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