TORONTO – After seeing the Leafs yield three freakish goals in a 3-2 loss to Carolina on Thursday night, defenceman Cody Franson said it might have been karma. Coach Randy Carlyle said the hockey gods had got back at his sloppy team.
But Toronto was the recipient of a big break Friday as goalie James Reimer skated out for practice.
Reimer, who has a history of blows to the head, lasted just 32 seconds into the Carolina game after being clipped in the head in an accidental collision with teammate Josh Leivo. Jonathan Bernier took over in goal.
In an era where brain injuries seem all too common in sports, the sight of Reimer face down on his knees was worrying—especially given his track record. Carlyle’s post-game diagnosis of a headache and a possible return to practice after medical evaluation seemed wildly optimistic.
The sight of University of Toronto goalie Michael Nishi on the ice before practice Friday only seemed to fuel the fears.
But Carlyle was proven right as Reimer skated onto the ice. And after practice, the Leafs goalie further backed up his coach, saying his headache was gone. He added that he did not experience any discomfort riding the bike or working out before practice.
“I’m feeling good,” said Reimer, who said he had left the game for “protocol/precautionary reasons.”
His headache, he said, subsided as the evening went on.
“Obviously it hurt pretty bad when I got hit, which I think is pretty normal,” he said. “By the time I went to bed there wasn’t much of one. And when I woke up, I felt pretty good.”
Carlyle said he expected Reimer to be available for Saturday’s game in Chicago. Bernier is likely to get the start, however.
Two seasons ago, Reimer missed time due to concussion-like symptoms that were later linked to a neck problem, when he was hit by Montreal’s Brian Gionta in October 2011.
He was sidelined for more than a month and finished the season on the sidelines after taking a shot in practice in late March 2012 and experiencing a return of the concussion-like symptoms.
Reimer said he was confident he was fine this time, saying he had a better sense of his body after the earlier injuries.
The goalie said he went to Leivo on Friday to ease his mind, saying he knew it was an accident.
Forward James van Riemsdyk also took part in practice Friday after missing time with back spasms. He is also expected to be available when the Leafs (6-2-0) play the Hawks (4-1-2) on Saturday.
Bernier, who gave up the winning goal when a long shot bounced off the boards and off his skate into the net, said he was putting the freak play behind him.
“You’ve just got to turn the page and move on,” he said. “It’s not like a repeat shot that I get beat on. Hopefully it’s a one-time thing and it’s not going to happen again.”