September 16, 2011
Lombardi aims to be healthy
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Matthew Lombardi’s goal for the 2011-12 regular season is a modest one.
“To be ready for the first game,” the 29-year-old Montreal native said after medicals on Friday morning on the first day of Maple Leafs training camp.
“I feel good. I can’t say I am in top form yet.”
Lombardi’s next game in the National Hockey League will be his first since last Oct. 13, when, while playing for the Nashville Predators, he suffered a concussion against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Lombardi figured he might miss one or two games when the injury happened. It didn’t work out that way, as he missed the next 80 games and did not play for Nashville again.
“The key is to be patient, and I think that is the toughest part,” Lombardi said. “Patience is hard, and I don’t think I am great with that. Time went by and I did get better.
“You have so much time to think and things go through your mind. I was never at the point where I said, ‘Geez, this is it for me,’ but things start to creep in. I was surrounded by family friends and everyone was really positive for me.”
Lombardi said he plans to be on the ice when the Leafs start scrimmages on Saturday, but contact remains a no-go zone. He will try to progress to the point he can take a check, but won’t rush himself. Though his concussion symptoms are gone, he did not participate in the most strenuous of physical tests on Friday.
When Lombardi is ready to play in games for the Leafs, and everyone involved figures it’s just a matter of time, it will make the trade with Nashville a greater steal than it already was. Sent to the Predators were defenceman Brett Lebda and forward Robert Slaney, with defenceman Cody Franson also coming back to Toronto.
Lombardi, at the least, will provide depth once he is healthy. Though Tyler Bozak has been pencilled as the third-line centre with Colby Armstrong on one wing and possibly Nazem Kadri on the other, Lombardi easily could push Bozak out of that spot once he is back in full-time hockey mode. It could become one of those kinds of good problems for Ron Wilson that coaches don’t mind having every so often.
Lombardi did have one small bonus as he recovered. His wife, Joannie, gave birth to the couple’s second child last September, not long before he was hurt. Though his concussion symptoms kept him from being an everyday dad, he never was far away.
“One blessing was to be around my family so much,” Lombardi said. “My wife put up with a lot for the past 11 months. She was unbelievable.”