|Leafs forward Tim Connolly is still recovering from an upper-body injury. (Jack Boland/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - If one thinks that Tim Connolly is growing increasingly bitter about his injury situation, take another guess.
The Maple Leafs centre has missed the first two games of the 2011-12 regular season and is not sure when he will make his Leafs debut.
“Surprisingly, I have not been too frustrated,” Connolly said after practice at the MasterCard Centre on Thursday. “Coming to the arena, with the guys playing the way they did and getting those two wins, everyone has smiles on their faces. It makes it easier.”
Perhaps it’s because the brittle Connolly missed 190 games in six post-lockout seasons with the Buffalo Sabres because of injuries that he’s deadened to the idea of missing more games. A concussion caused him to miss all of the 2003-04 season.
The 30-year-old told reporters his upper-body injury “is a little bit more significant than originally expected.” But Connolly didn’t appear to be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being delayed further in trying to convince doubters that the Leafs were right to sign him to a two-year, $9.5-million US contract in July.
“I don’t really know if it is day to day now,” Connolly said. “It may be a little bit longer. I can’t really speculate or give you a guess of how long it is going to be. I would like to, but whether it is a week or two weeks before I am playing, I could not tell you.”
Connolly was hurt when he crashed into the boards during practice 18 days ago. He was placed on injured reserve to start the season, and basically, this stopped being a day-to-day situation quite a while ago.
Coach Ron Wilson was not willing to offer any insight into Connolly’s notion that the injury is more serious than day to day.
“It depends on days,” Wilson said. “Are days on Mars longer in terms of hours? As far as I am concerned, he is day to day. When he is ready to play, we will let you know.”
Though everything points to a shoulder injury, Connolly would not confirm that. But he did say that surgery will not be required.
“There was some speculation that it was head or neck, but it is not that at all,” Connolly said. “I can tell you that 100%.
“I don’t want to get too specific into the injury, because when I do eventually get back, you never know if somebody would target that area. You’re coming off an upper-body injury and teams will want to play you physical.”
While Connolly has only a moving target for a return date, winger Nazem Kadri continued to insist he could be healthy enough to be in the lineup in one of the Leafs’ four games next week. Kadri suffered a sprained knee in a pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 27, and he could be ticketed for some brushing up with the Toronto Marlies.
“I’m feeling better and better, and I’ve not been having too many setbacks,” Kadri said. “I’m just improving.”
Connolly will continue to work out as he tries to keep himself in game shape. But no matter how much he skates — on Thursday it was for approximately 30 minutes — the longer he is out, the harder it will be for him to compete on a level with his teammates. The swelling and pain had decreased, Connolly said, until he pushed it too hard in practice.
“I had to back off shooting and puckhandling and even grinding up against the boards,” Connolly said.
“It’s a situation where I have to give it time to heal. I went out and gave it a go for a few days in practice, and realized it was going to be longer than initially expected. Now, it’s kind of a waiting game until I am healed up and I can’t re-injure myself.
“I’m excited to get back, no matter where I am in the lineup or whether I am killing penalties or on the power play or what I am doing. I’m excited for this team.”