TORONTO – Jonathan Bernier tried to stretch at every opportunity.
Tuesday night marked the Toronto Maple Leafs starting goaltender’s first game back after missing five straight with a groin injury. Bernier managed to get through it despite facing 48 shots in a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
“A lot of work. But I felt OK,” Bernier said. “It was a little sore obviously, but I was just trying to get it loose a little bit in between whistles and timeouts.”
Bernier aggravated the groin injury March 13 in the first period in Los Angeles. James Reimer relieved him and beat the Kings, then lost five straight starts.
With the Leafs’ season looking like it was going off the rails after three straight losses, Bernier pushed himself too hard at Friday’s practice with the hope of returning for the weekend. A setback at that point delayed his return.
By Monday, Bernier felt better but needed Tuesday’s morning skate to know for sure. When he experienced no soreness, the decision was made to start against the Blues.
Asked if he would’ve done the same in the 10th game of the season and did not rush back, Bernier responded: “Ah, I mean you always want to be back as soon as possible.”
Bernier said he would be able to play back-to-back games moving forward. The Leafs visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night before returning home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
The process of managing this groin injury, the first of his career, will be an ongoing process.
“We got a good staff and obviously a lot of stretching and take care of my body—lots of rest,” Bernier said.
Even in a losing effort, the Leafs were glad to get Bernier back because without him they might’ve not even been in the game.
“He was outstanding in there,” winger James van Riemsdyk said. “He made big save after big save for us.”
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