January 21, 2013
Leafs' Gardiner says he's ready to return
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

Jake Gardiner. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency files)

TORONTO - While he won’t be available to the Maple Leafs on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres, young defenceman Jake Gardiner says he’s ready to go. Now all Leafs Nation can do is hope his coaches agree.

Gardiner, who was injured in a game on Dec. 8 while playing for the Toronto Marlies during the NHL lockout, skated with the Maple Leafs (1-0) for a second time on Monday morning as they prepared for their home opener against the Sabres (1-0).

Gardiner, who also participated in some limited drills on the final day of training camp Friday, said after Monday’s skate that he’s ready to participate in full-contact drills but that he still must get clearance from the team to do so.

“It’s just of matter of being ready and having the coaches confident enough to put me in the games,” said Gardiner, who is recovering from a concussion received after he was shaken up by a hit to the head in a home game against the Rochester Americans. Gardiner, who scored a power-play goal after a charging penalty was assessed on the hit, did not return for the third period of that game.

The 6-foot-2 blueliner said he hasn’t participated in any contact drills yet but that that could come as early as Tuesday.

“I told them I’m pretty much ready to go, so it’s just a coaches’ decision,” Gardiner said. “It’s tough sitting here, but we’re being pretty cautious. Hopefully I have a long career ahead so I don’t want to risk it too soon. I feel good now so I’m ready to go.”


The 22-year-old Minnesotan had an impressive rookie year for the Leafs last season, making the team out of camp while recording seven goals and 30 points in 75 games. That strong play carried over to the Marlies this season, where he was the team’s highest-scoring defenceman with nine goals and 17 points before being injured.

The earliest Gardiner could be in the lineup would be Wednesday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, though it might make more sense to hold him out for one more game and have him start the season at home against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

At any rate, he won’t be skating against the always tough Sabres, who opened their season on Sunday with a 5-2 win over Philadelphia, and Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had some decisions to make on the blue line that didn’t include Gardiner.

Carlyle said after the morning skate that he planned to “insert some people that didn’t play last game (Saturday in Montreal) into tonight’s game.”

He said the move wasn’t punitive in anyway just that he wants to get everybody skating.

That means defencemen Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser could be in and, most likely, Cody Franson and Mike Komisarek are out.

If forward David Steckel gets his turn on the fourth line, Colton Orr probably comes out.

Ben Scrivens will once again start in net for the Leafs who look to open this lockout-shortened season with two consecutive wins.

“We hope he plays as well as he did in Montreal (a 2-1 victory). Now he’s in trouble because we’re going to expect that every night,” Carlyle joked.

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