About an hour before the Maple Leafs morning skate at the Bank Atlantic Center on Tuesday, John-Michael Liles was standing in a sun-splashed parking lot outside the arena talking on his cellphone.
That’s about the most strenuous activity the Leafs want him doing these days.
Not only did Liles not join his teammates on the ice, it was later revealed by coach Ron Wilson that the speedy blue liner has been placed on IR with “concussion-like symptoms.”
“We’re shutting him down for a few days,” said Wilson, whose Leafs take on the Florida Panthers Tuesday night to kick off a three-game post-Christmas trip that also includes stops in Carolina and Winnipeg.
“He was feeling a bit better today but he’s not ready to go. If we run into a crisis, we’ll have another defenceman available in case of illness or injury.”
Liles was injured last week during a check by the Buffalo Sabres’ Paul Gaustad. After spending some time in the “dark room,” he briefly returned to the game before being shut down.
“We just wanted to make sure you don’t overdiagnose somebody,” Wilson said. “You have to give it a couple of days. Right now it’s best that he sits out and stays away from the rink for a couple of days.
“It’s as simple as that.”
With Liles out of action, the Leafs defence corps again will be made up of Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson, Keith Aulie, Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner.
The Leafs, who come into the game on a 2-0-1 run, face a Panthers team that is ravaged by injuries. Among the seven regulars who won’t be suiting up is centre Stephen Weiss, who is second in team scoring with 32 points.
The leading Panthers scorer just happens to be ex-Leaf Kris Versteeg, who has found a home in Florida after a whirlwind tour that saw him play for four teams — Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia and Florida — in the span of just 18 months.
“I feel like I have a home here,” Versteeg said. “It’s nice to have a place where you feel you’ll settle in for a long time.”
Due to the rash of walking wounded on the Panthers side, don’t be surprised if former Kingston Frontenac Erik Gudbranson sees some playing time at forward. The young defenceman was moved up front due to a lack of bodies up there during the Panthers’ 8-0 drubbing to the Boston Bruins last week.
According to Wilson, James Reimer will start in goal for the Leafs. The Panthers will go with Jose Theodore.