TAMPA - Some of the haze which has lingered over James Reimer and his absence dissipated at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday afternoon.
Reimer took part in his fifth consecutive on-ice workout, meeting with the media for the first time in nearly a month, offering clarity to an injury that's been shrouded in mystery. The 23-year-old has been suffering from what he termed as "concussion-like symptoms" - but not specifically a concussion - dating back to an October 22nd collision with Canadiens captain Brian Gionta at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Reimer described the concussion-like symptoms as lingering headaches, symptoms which have since disappeared in the past week.
"It's like you're day-to-day for 30 days," he said. "It just stuck around. It just hung in there. It just wouldn't go away. I felt fine for the most part. It was like I was like 99% for 30 days.
"I thought I was getting better and I thought the way it was going along and the way it was progressing that I was going to be ready to go, but things just kind of plateaued and they've plateaued ever since," he explained. "And now finally the last week the symptoms have kind of been getting better. It's been great and I've felt great the last five days."
The Leafs have consistently denied that Reimer was suffering from a concussion, aligning the symptoms as similar and nothing more. "When you get into that injury or that type of an injury, there's so many unknowns that come with it," said Reimer. "There's so many symptoms that can relate to so many different kinds of injuries and so that's why it's concussion-like symptoms.
"It's a tough injury to diagnose I think. I think a lot of people might say it is and some people would say it isn't. For now, I'm comfortable with just calling it concussion-like symptoms and I think that's the way we're running with it."
The cycle of Reimer's recovery has been anything but smooth.
Four days after suffering the injury, Reimer was back on the ice for practice at Madison Square Garden in New York (Oct. 26). He was pulled from on-ice workouts a day later - after experiencing headaches - returning to practice the following week (Nov. 1). All signs pointed to a start in Columbus (Nov. 3), but that plan was aborted and he was removed again from on-ice participation three days later (Nov. 4). Reimer remained off the ice for two weeks, before taking part in a light workout on Friday, incrementally increasing the tenacity and length of his workloads since then.
"I think the symptoms are getting better, almost gone," he said. "I think it's just a matter now of getting back in shape and getting the timing and everything back. When it's concussion-like symptoms and you have to err on the side of caution, one thing you can't do is get your heart-rate up so you're just kind of sitting on your butt for a month. I've been trying to eat well and do stuff when I could, but your conditioning is something that really takes a hit.
"I'm going to practice hard for the next little while here and I've been going hard so hopefully I can get back into shape and be ready to go very soon."
No timeline has been set for Reimer's return, but he's expected to take part in his first full practice in Dallas on Thursday.
"I can't say the number of days it's going to take, but hopefully sometime in the future we'll find him back in net again," said Ron Wilson. "We've had some really good games from our goalies and some mediocre ones. It'd be nice to get our number one goalie involved.
"I think we've battened down the hatches and gotten enough points that when he does get back we can get ourselves on a roll again and be right in the thick of everything."
The Leafs have managed to remain afloat without Reimer (7-8-1), mostly due to the exploits of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and the league's 8th best offence. Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens have been up and down in their stints filling in for the Manitoba native.
"It's really sucked being out," concluded Reimer. "I'm just glad that everything kind of seems like it's gone now and so hopefully I can just get back to stopping pucks."