Leafs' injured players getting better

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:47 PM ET

TORONTO - Slowly but surely, members of the Maple Leafs’ walking wounded are creeping back toward a potential return.

In the cases of goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and forward Colby Armstrong, that could be within the next two weeks.

Giguere, Armstrong and captain Dion Phaneuf skated prior to the team’s practice Wednesday morning at the MasterCard Centre, an optimistic sign for the team heading into December.

Coach Ron Wilson said Armstrong, who tore a tendon in his knuckle on Oct. 26, could be back by the weekend of Dec. 4-5.

“He still needs clearance from the doctor who performed the surgery,” Wilson said.

Armstrong was out on the ice in full gear and was able to fire off some shots. Wilson did say that Armstrong needed to get more strength in his hand.

Giguere, who suffered a groin injury on Nov. 16, wore full equipment and did some stretching.

“He didn’t face any shots,” Wilson said, adding “he could be back next week.”

Phaneuf, meanwhile, was not wearing any equipment as he fired off a few shots during his brief skate. His left leg was sliced open by a skate blade on Nov. 2 and he is expected back by mid-December, perhaps in time for his return to Calgary when the Leafs visit the Flames Dec. 16.

THAT’S GOTTA STING

The most painful blow at practice Wednesday appeared to be absorbed by Mike Brown, the son of a motorcycle dealer who was nailed right in his, ah, Harley Davidsons. He was seen limping to the dressing room shortly afterwards.

Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson also was clunked a couple of times, once in the chest, the other in the foot. Unlike Brown, he was able to continue.

“I think I’m better off than (Brownie),” he said.

MONSTER MASH

The Leafs face upcoming back-to-back road games against Northeast Division rivals, facing off in Buffalo Friday before heading to Ottawa for a Hockey Night in Canada showdown with the provincial rival Senators Saturday.

Wilson said Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get both starts in goal.

“We’ve had a number of days off, so it’s not like back-to-backs should be a problem for him,” Wilson said.

“I feel good,” Gustavsson said. “The more you play, the more confidence you have.”

At the other end of the dressing room, James Reimer, called up to back up Gustavsson while Giguere is sidelined, waits to see if and when he will get his first NHL start.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I just come to the rink every and do my work. Hopefully that time will come.”

FARM BOUND

Prior to practice Wednesday, the Leafs announced that forward Luca Caputi has been returned to the Toronto Marlies.

Caputi, the gritty forward acquired in the Alexei Ponikarovsky deal with Pittsburgh in March, collected eight shots and four penalty minutes in the six games he played for the Leafs since being recalled from the Marlies on Oct. 27.

The Marlies defeated Grand Rapids 3-1 at Ricoh Coliseum Wednesday.

GREY CUP CHANGEUP

While Kris Versteeg originally told colleague Lance Hornby earlier this week that Montreal would win the Grey Cup, he has now changed his mind.

Chalk it up to family pressure.

“I have to go with Saskatchewan,” Versteeg said Wednesday. “My grandpa, Morris Pashkowich, would pull his teeth out if I didn’t pick the Riders.

“He’s 78 and he’s always wearing Rider green.”


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