TORONTO – Dave Bolland
repeated himself to hammer home the point.
"Fifty-fifty," he said of his odds to return before the Olympic break. "Fifty-fifty."
Bolland, who took part in his first full practice Friday since returning to the ice, continues to inch back toward a return from a severed left ankle tendon, one that has kept him out of the Toronto lineup since Nov. 2 – a stretch of 41 games and counting.
Whether he returns before the Leafs conclude their pre-Olympic schedule – they have four games left – is a matter of some uncertainty and will depend entirely on the state of his recovery.
"I'm not going to get back into it if I'm not ready," said Bolland, joining the team for a brief 35-minute skate. "There's no point in me getting back into it if I'm not ready ... I don't want to be back in there and take a minus and be a liability out there. I want to be back and be 100 per cent."
Bolland seemed to hint toward a target of Feb. 8, the team's final game before the Olympic break, giving him an opportunity to test the recovered area in a string of practices before potentially returning.
"We'll see," he said. "If I'm ready then I'm ready. If I feel that I can contribute out there in that last game. If not, then I'll take those two weeks to get back into it."
"There's no rush," added Leafs assistant GM Claude Loiselle. "You always hope that you can get a player like that back [sooner].
"But to get back sooner when you're not ready is the wrong thing to do."
Describing the rehab as "grueling" recently, the three-month recovery process has not been easy for the native of nearby Mimico, Ontario. Forced onto crutches and glued to a whole lot of Apple TV for a month after the injury, Bolland began skating in mid-January, joining the team for the first time earlier this week.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, he was arguably Toronto's best skater in October, totaling six goals and 10 points in 15 games.
Winners of eight of their past 10, the Leafs will be mindful of not rushing him back, especially with the upcoming two-week layoff.
"It's a long process coming back from an injury like that," said Joffrey Lupul
. "I don't think anything is going to happen overnight, but yeah he looks good out there. I think for him it's probably just increasing the workload a little bit every day. And it's certainly not something you want to rush, especially with a couple weeks off here. We in the room want him back as soon as possible, but we're going to need him at 100 per cent eventually so hopefully [the organization] take[s] the right course."