Leafs’ Armstrong healthy, can't wait for camp

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong, left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a...

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong, left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Florida Panthers during the overtime shoot-out period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto February 1, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:32 PM ET

Colby Armstrong isn't a big fan of training camp.

But for the 28-year-old Maple Leafs forward, camp, which is two months in the distance, can't come soon enough.

Armstrong, whose first season in a Leafs sweater was more of a crash course in strange injuries than anything else, has been working out at his off-season home in Saskatoon, getting ready to officially put 2010-11 behind him.

"I hate camp, but I can't wait to get back and hang around with the fellas and get started again," Armstrong said on Thursday. "I can say that last season didn't exactly go the way I wanted it to go."

That's an understatement. The Leafs missed the playoffs again, and the absences of Armstrong, who signed a three-year, $9-million US deal with Toronto last summer, didn't help. A couple of broken feet, a couple of hand injuries and a bleeding eye kept Armstrong in the infirmary a lot more than he would have liked.

All told, Armstrong was on the sideline for 32 games. In the 50 he played, he had eight goals and 15 assists. When he was forced to the sideline, the Leafs missed his grit, tenacity and his ability to drive opponents up a wall.

Now, though, the injuries have healed and Armstrong is healthy. He noted he got a jump on rehabilitation not long after he suffered a broken foot in March, and soon, Armstrong will continue his workouts at a gym in Saskatoon that his sister, Tiffany, is on the verge of opening.

Armstrong likes the off-season moves that general manager Brian Burke has made. Centre Tim Connolly, signed the day after free agency opened, has the job as the team's No. 1 centre to lose, while defencemen John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson will bring different elements to the blue line. Centre Matthew Lombardi, if he can get past concussion problems, should contribute.

There are no airs with Armstrong. His effusive personality came through clear during a telephone interview.

"I'm pumped," Armstrong said. "But I'm not going to lie. On that first day (July 1), I was thinking, 'Where's our Leafs?' when nothing happened. I'm a huge Connolly fan after playing so many years against him. Liles is a heck of a player, and the same with Franson. Lombardi is a speedster who would be great up the middle for us and can make things happen.

"Getting (James) Reimer signed was another key move, and I was happy when (Tyler) Bozak and (Clarke) MacArthur re-signed. They're all quality guys."

Sales of Armstrong's 'Half-clapper, top-cheddar' T-shirts continue through sportschirps.com. The saying, a reference to a player going high on a netminder for a goal after pulling his stick back halfway, was unveiled by Armstrong during his turn on TSN's hockey panel in the NHL playoffs. Five dollars from every shirt sold goes to Camp Trillium, a camp that gives children with cancer a chance to have some fun.

"That really came out of nowhere, but I keep getting asked about the shirts all the time," Armstrong said. "The numbers have been pretty good."

Armstrong, his wife Melissa and their son Cruise, who turned one in June, will make their way back to Toronto sometime before the middle of August.

"I have to believe that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Armstrong said, referring to his rash of injuries.

"I don't know what I could have done to stop any of my injuries from happening. I feel fine now, though, and I'm just looking forward to getting back and getting going again."

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


Photos