TORONTO - Tim Connolly says he doesn’t mind speaking to the media, but the Maple Leafs centre might be wishing he had stayed behind closed doors on Tuesday morning.
Connolly talked to a throng of reporters after the Leafs’ morning skate for the first time since injuring himself during the first period of Toronto’s 7-0 loss to Boston on Saturday night.
A swarm of reporters gathered around the stall of Connolly, who had voluntarily come out to speak ahead of Toronto’s home game against the surprising Florida Panthers (6-4-3), and wanted to know exactly what was ailing the Leafs’ off-season acquisition.
Connolly finished the game against Boston but has not practiced since and reporters were told he would be out 10 to 14 days with an “undisclosed upper body injury.”
When asked if it was the same undisclosed upper body injury that kept him out of the Leafs lineup for the first eight games of the season, Connolly said, “No.”
But when pressed if he had ever had this kind of injury before, he responded, “I don’t think so, I’m not sure,” which makes one wonder if it might not be the same shoulder injury that sidelined him earlier and the Leafs just aren’t saying.
Connolly missed the start of the season when he slammed into the boards during pre-season practice and hurt his shoulder. He has only played in six games since, registering a goal and three assists on the Leafs top line.
“I kind of felt right away that there was something wrong but I just tried to battle through it,” Connolly said of the injury on Saturday night. “I couldn’t really go to well out there, but I was going as hard as I could for that game … It was tough to get through the game but it was a bit worse afterwards when the adrenaline does settle down and you never really want to take yourself out of a game no matter what the situation.”
Asked if he was sick of facing the media with questions regarding his health, the oft-injured former Buffalo Sabre said, “It’s all right. It’s your job and my job too. That’s part of the deal, part of being a hockey player, especially in Toronto. It’s a great atmosphere, though, you can’t ask for a better hockey atmosphere.”
The injury to Connolly, meanwhile, opened the door for Matt Frattin to return to the big club.
The winger was recalled by the Leafs on Tuesday morning and skated with the team during their pre-game ritual.
Frattin, a goal-scorer in college, had not put the puck in the net in 11 games with the Leafs before being sent down to the Marlies, but he had scored twice in three games with the AHL squad.
“I thought I played pretty good down there and now I’ve got another opportunity, so here’s my chance,” Frattin said. “I took it as a positive thing (being sent down). I needed a little more ice time and down there I was getting a lot more ice time, I was playing a lot more power plays, so it’s definitely a confidence booster and I felt really good out there.”
Frattin will play on the third line with Joey Crabb and Matthew Lombardi, while Tyler Bozak will take Connolly’s spot on the first line.
There had been speculation that Joe Colborne, who had 10 goals and 19 points in 12 games with the Marlies this season, might be called up to replace Connolly but coach Ron Wilson said Colborne was injured and wouldn’t be playing in the Marlies’ Tuesday night game against the Oklahoma City Barons.
Jonas Gustavsson, meanwhile, will be back in net for the Leafs after making way for Ben Scrivens the previous two games.