Brad Richards insists he was attempting to shoot low. But the moment the puck snapped off his stick toward the top corner of the net behind Martin Brodeur, Richards figured everyone soon would discover whether Team Canada's top goaltender would be able to suit up for tonight's World Cup final against Finland at the Air Canada Centre.
Sure enough, the most publicized left hand in Canada snatched the puck out of the air, then waved it for all to see.
Richards had his answer: Brodeur is ready.
"I was trying to keep it low," Richards said yesterday after practice. "But when it went high, he grabbed it, held it up in my face and laughed at me.
"That's when I knew he was back."
Brodeur had good reason to chuckle.
Taking part in his first full practice since spraining his left wrist against Slovakia six days ago, Brodeur felt no pain during the hour-long workout and expects to play in the championship game.
Until the Richards shot, Brodeur's teammates had avoided testing his glove hand during the morning workout.
"I told the guys to just shoot, but I guess none of them wanted to be the guy whose shot caused my hand to fall off," an upbeat Brodeur said.
"I'm really happy now that I've had a chance to use it. I don't know how it will react later, but if it stays the same I'm optimistic. In fact, if I feel for the game like I feel right now, I could play."
Even with his hand and wrist tightly bandaged inside his trapper, Brodeur experienced no difficulty in corralling any shots.
But handling the puck will be a different story. Because he cannot close his catching hand around the stick, he'll have to alter his normal routine.
"I'll just use the (left hand) to push the stick and guide the puck," he said. "No big deal. I've done it before."
Brodeur has been amazed at the amount of support he has received from fans in Toronto the past few days.
"People have pulled up beside me while I'm walking on the street, rolled their car window down and said 'Good luck, go get 'em,' "Brodeur said.
While he was out for dinner one night, Brodeur was approached by one of the servers.
Before he could submit his food order, the waiter asked "How's the hand?"
"That's the great thing about playing in Canada, people care so much," Brodeur said. "It emphasizes what a big game this is going to be, and I don't want to miss it."