It's been a difficult month for Toronto Maple Leafs starting goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Having missed two weeks with a lower-body injury, Andersen returned on Mar. 3 and made 26 saves on 27 shots in a 6-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers. The win capped a three-game sweep against their North Division rivals and Toronto appeared to be in control of their destiny.
Since that time, the Leafs are 1-5 and Andersen has posted an .872 save percentage in last five appearances. Part of his decline may be explained by the fact that the 31-year-old is not 100 percent healthy.
"I'm not really where I want to be obviously," Andersen said. "I think I'm working towards just getting as good as possible."
"I think everyone goes through a season where we all have something going on. It's just a matter of how well you can manage it and play through it."
Andersen finds himself in a difficult spot. His backup goaltender, Jack Campbell, has performed well when called upon and was supposed to decrease some of Andersen's workload this season. But a lingering leg injury has limited Campbell to one start in nearly two months.
On Sunday, Toronto's third goaltender, Michael Hutchinson, allowed two goals on three shots before being pulled in favor of Andersen, who played the night before against the Winnipeg Jets.
"I think everybody's been battling something and of course that is going to have a bit of an effect," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "This season is kind of unforgiving because the games don't really settle down."
Andersen is entering the final year of a five-year, $25 million contract and his play has come into focus. On Tuesday, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas defended his goaltender by pointing to his track record of rebounding after stretches of games where Andersen's numbers have been below expectations.
"I think if you go back through each season, anything with Fred where he has found himself in a rut per se, he's able to pull himself out of it," Dubas said. "And that's the expectation of what we'll see from him as we move ahead."
The Leafs are coming off the longest break in the schedule since they had four days off following their first trip out west between Jan.30 and Feb. 4. Toronto followed the break by winning four straight games with Andersen posting a combined 0.939 save percentage. The hope is the rest will serve many players, including Andersen, well ahead of back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames on Friday and Saturday
"I know I have the ability to be a great goalie in this league and help a team win a ton of hockey games," Andersen said. "I think it's just a matter of finding that confidence against and I know that it's right there."
Campbell has been a full participant during Toronto's practices this week. He could be in line to split goaltending duties with Andersen should he be cleared to return.
"It's looking that way" Keefe said about Campbell on Wednesday.
Campbell is 3-0-0 this season with a .951 save percentage.
Wayne Simmonds continues to work his way toward returning to the lineup, but Keefe cautioned they're still unsure if the veteran will be ready to return to the lineup this weekend.
"We don't quite have that answer yet," Keefe said. "We're still waiting for that and see how he is tomorrow."
Keefe noted that Simmonds' return is "imminent". At practice, the Toronto-born vet returned to the net-front position on the team's first power-play unit. At the end of special teams work, Alex Galchenyuk also got some looks on the first power play while Simmonds looked on. That scenario could play itself out should Simmonds not be ready to return.