DALLAS – James Reimer will remain out at least another ten days.
That was the word from Ron Wilson, following the 23-year-old's first practice since November 1 as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms which have sidelined him for the last 15 games.
"This is a process so let's not rush it," said Wilson, following practice at the American Airlines Arena. "When we want him to go in there we want him to be 100 per cent in terms of stopping the puck and in terms of conditioning and all of that. He won't go in until he's ready."
Reimer echoed Wilson's thoughts, although he was generally more hopeful to get in sooner rather later.
"When you get back there you want to be 120 per cent," said Reimer. "I want to come in how I left off, not kind of feel my way for a couple games. I want to get back in there and start winning again. I think that's kind of the mentality we have here.
"When you're out for this long you want to get back as soon as you can. If I got in at the end of the trip that'd be great. If I got in on Wednesday that'd be great. I want to get in as soon as possible. If I could play tomorrow, if I was completely ready, that'd be sweet too."
Ultimately, that will not be the case.
The Leafs are exercising patience and caution with their number one netminder, especially wise in light of what took place in early November. Reimer was pegged to start on the 3rd in Columbus after just one practice and three morning skates, but "plateaued" in his recovery and was removed from on-ice workouts for the next two weeks, returning this past Friday.
"Impatience is a big part of it," said Reimer. "You have to take a deep breath every now and then and just realize what's best for you, what's best for the team and that's really the main thing. There's no sense in me coming back early if I'm not prepared. Then we might have a bad game and that'd be useless, that'd be terrible. I've got to stay patient and hope that when the coach thinks it's ready for me to get in there, then I'll be ready."
Conditioning is Reimer's greatest challenge, no surprise considering the month-plus he's now been out.
"That's obviously going to be the big hurdle," he said. "Last couple days I've been trying to work off ice, trying to get in shape and trying to get in shape and stuff, but on the ice today I felt really good.
"My legs don't feel too bad out there, I'm not that tired out there, but it's just the all-around, the timing, and just a little bit of conditioning. It just feels like all the levels are just down a little bit, not like one is worse than the other.
"It's just a matter of getting everything back up to that pristine place."
The Leafs are 8-7-1 in Reimer's absence, set to take on the Stars on Friday before departing to California for a Sunday matchup with the Ducks in Anaheim. Jonas Gustavsson has tempered the unsteady waters in goal recently with a pair of quality starts, stopping 67 of 69 shots faced in wins over Washington and Tampa. He'll make his third start in the last four games against Dallas.
Reimer could conceivably be ready to return in Boston on December 3rd, but when you consider Wilson's timeline it is far from a guarantee, sensible considering the unpredictable nature of the injury.
"It's up to the coaching staff and how they feel," said Reimer. "We're going to talk it out I think and see where I'm at. I can't say when I'm going to be back, that's completely up to them I think. Hopefully I can keep practicing well and keep proving to them that I am ready to go and they'll have all the confidence in the world to put me in.
"When they feel I'm ready that's when I'll be ready to go."
"There's no rush here," concluded Wilson. "That's why it's going to take some time because we don't have very many quality practices for him to catch up. He's just got be patient. It's a process. Ten days or so out, somewhere in there he'll be ready to play."
Another Week for Grabovski
Mikhail Grabovski has missed the last four games with a knee injury and remains out at least another week, but did join teammates for practice in Dallas on Wednesday. "He's maybe a week away," said Wilson. "I was hoping maybe when I heard he was going to join [the trip] that he'd possibly be ready for the game in Anaheim, but I don't think so now."
Grabovski suffered the injury in the first period of a game against Phoenix last week. The injury got progressively worse as the game wore on and the 27-year-old was forced to withdraw in the second period.
As detailed in the Leaf Report on Wednesday morning, Mike Brown's injury situation remains unclear. Brown has also missed the last four games with what's believed to be a groin injury. He was sent back to Toronto for further examination by team doctors. "I'm not sure what the prognosis is right now," said Wilson. The 26-year-old played with a groin injury in the second half last season, opting for minor clean-up surgery in the summer. While there has been no firm confirmation that the two are related, it seems quite likely at this point.