The Toronto Maple Leafs are beginning to get a few bodies back from injury, but the best news these days is that the team's No. 1 netminder is almost back at full health.
James Reimer met with the media on Tuesday afternoon as his teammates readied to play the Tampa Bay Lightning, speaking publicly for the first time in a month as he's battled concussion-like symptoms.
While Reimer won't be suited up for Tuesday's game, he's getting closer to a return and spent more than an hour on the ice in Tampa attempting to get his conditioning level back after weeks of little activity.
"Hopefully soon," he said of when he will play. "The symptoms are getting better, are almost gone, so it's just a matter now of getting back in shape and getting the timing and everything back.
"When it's concussion-like symptoms and you have to err on the side of caution, the only thing you can't do is get your heart rate up. You're just kind of sitting on your butt for a month."
Coach Ron Wilson wouldn't set a timeline for Reimer's return but said he expects him to play in the near future.
"It's not going to be a long time," Wilson said, noting Reimer would take part in his first full practice Thursday in Dallas. "It's going to be a short time."
Reimer's absence has had a big impact on the Leafs fortunes since he went down midway through a 5-4 overtime win in Montreal in the seventh game of the season.
At that point, Toronto was 5-1-1 and an almost perfect 4-0-1 with Reimer in goal. Since then, however, they've gone 6-7-1 and have just two wins in their last eight games heading into their game with the Lightning.
And neither Jonas Gustavsson or Ben Scrivens have been able to provide nearly the consistency Reimer has shown during his short time in the league.
Gustavsson will get the start against Tampa, and it could potentially be a big one given Reimer's return will force one of the current netminders out. Gustavsson has the obvious edge on staying put given his one-way contract and the fact he needs to go on waivers to be sent down.
If he has a couple more poor performances, however, Scrivens could get a look as Reimer's full-time backup.
"We've battened down the hatches and gotten enough points that when he does get back, we can get ourselves on a roll again and be right in the thick of everything," Wilson said.
"We've got a lot of people out with injuries and we'd like have our full lineup. It starts in goal. We've had some really good games from our goaltenders and some mediocre ones. It would be nice to get our No. 1 goalie involved."
- Clarke MacArthur will be back in the lineup after missing the last three games with an upper body injury. He'll be playing for the first time with Tim Connolly as his centre, and he said the two have some chemistry from their days together with the Buffalo Sabres. (MacArthur said he thinks they played 15 or 20 games as linemates.)
- MacArthur on his line's bad luck so far: "It's been a tough start ... It'd be nice to get back here and stay healthy and get in a rhythm. Our one line's been great this year and we need to step up as a second scoring line and help out. You can't have one line trying to carry you the whole season."
- The other injured players remain no-gos, however, with Mike Brown, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Komisarek, Matt Lombardi and Colby Armstrong all out. Colton Orr and Korbinian Holzer will be healthy scratches. Komisarek had surgery for his broken arm on Monday and won't be back until late January.
- MacArthur's return bumps Matt Frattin down to the third line with Joey Crabb and Joe Colborne. Frattin and Crabb haven't played together yet this season and said they weren't sure who would play left wing and who would play right. David Steckel has been shifted to the fourth line.
- Dwayne Roloson will start for the Lightning, and for some reason, he always seems to play well against Toronto. In 14 career games, he has a .924 save percentage.