TORONTO – Injuries continue to pile up for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Phil Kessel left practice early with an unspecified injury, and coach Randy Carlyle said he wasn’t sure if the star winger would be able to play Thursday night against the Dallas Stars.
“I don’t know. I haven’t got an answer for that,” Carlyle said. “He just told me he needed to leave the ice surface. When a player tells you he needs to go, he goes.”
Kessel left practice in a hurry, and Carlyle described the problem as “a little tweak.” Kessel was not made available to reporters.
“He said that he’d had enough practice and he said that he didn’t feel good in one area of his body so we let him go,” Carlyle said.
Uncertainty was prevalent for the Leafs on Wednesday, as centre Tyler Bozak and enforcer Colton Orr missed practice. Bozak was getting an MRI on an upper-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s loss to the San Jose Sharks, while Orr was dealing with an inflamed bursa sac in his elbow, according to Carlyle.
Winger Joffrey Lupul, who has been out with a groin injury, skated before practice and then was on the ice with teammates for about 15 minutes before leaving in apparent discomfort.
“I didn’t even actually see him go, but he wasn’t scheduled to stay out there for the full practice, so he was scheduled to leave when he wanted,” Carlyle said.
Despite mounting injuries, the team put centre Jerred Smithson on waivers at noon. Smithson had zero points, nine penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating in 13 games with the Leafs since signing in early November.
“We just felt that we’re in a position where we have people rated ahead of him,” Carlyle said. “Simple as that.”
If he clears waivers, it’s expected that the 34-year-old will be assigned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Before signing a one-year, two-way deal with the Leafs, Smithson had been on a tryout with the Marlies.
Defenceman Cody Franson, who missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, took part in practice could return to the lineup against the Stars.
“It’s tough to watch the games,” Franson said. “That’s never easy to sit out and watch the guys try and battle in the games there. I felt pretty good today and I should be good for tomorrow.”
Centre Nazem Kadri returned to the team after missing Tuesday’s game against the Sharks to attend his grandfather’s funeral in London, Ont. Kadri talked at length about the death of the 77-year-old man who helped raise him but also expressed some relief to get back on the ice.
“That’s how you get away from it all,” Kadri said. “I know if it was up to him, he’d want me with the team. He probably would’ve wanted me to play yesterday, as well, but I felt it was just important for me to be there just to say my goodbyes one last time.”