LEAFS’ CREASE GET­TING BACK TO NOR­MAL

NO. 1 AN­DER­SEN TIPPED TO RE­TURN FROM IN­JURY

National Post (Latest Edition) - - POST SPORTS - TERRY KOSHAN [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/koshtoron­to­sun

Ex­pect to see Fred­erik An­der­sen back in his of­fice on Mon­day night. The Maple Leafs’ No. 1 goal­tender, felled by the flu the past cou­ple of days, is set to re­turn to the crease after re­cov­er­ing from a groin in­jury that has kept him out of the lineup since Dec. 22.

“Def­i­nitely feel ready to go,” An­der­sen said after the Leafs prac­tised at the MasterCard Cen­tre on Sun­day. “Got the lit­tle flu out of the way and feel a lot bet­ter than the (past) two days.

“It’s just a con­fi­dence thing of be­ing in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions with my leg and I think we cov­ered a good amount of ground to­day. It felt re­ally good.”

The Leafs play host to the Colorado Avalanche at Sco­tia­bank Arena on Mon­day and there is a good chance Gar­ret Sparks also will be in his usual spot, sit­ting at the end of the bench back­ing up An­der­sen.

An­der­sen has missed the past eight games; for Sparks, the pe­riod of in­ac­tiv­ity has reached five games in his re­cov­ery from a con­cus­sion.

Sparks prac­tised on Sun­day, while Michael Hutchin­son, who held the fort with the top two Toronto net­min­ders on the side­line, did not par­tic­i­pate. Later, Hutchin­son was on the ice with goal­tend­ing coach Steve Briere and di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment Stephane Ro­bidas.

“I’m med­i­cally cleared to par­tic­i­pate with the team and what they choose to do (on Mon­day) is up to them,” Sparks said.

Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock in­di­cated we will know after the morn­ing skate on Mon­day who is in net against an Avalanche team that was shut out in Mon­treal by the Cana­di­ens on Satur­day night and has lost nine of its past 10 games.

“I don’t know who is start­ing,” Bab­cock said. “I have not talked to the train­ers. I’ll be able to tell you (Mon­day) morn­ing.

“It would be good to have ev­ery­body back, but that is all part of life. We have to find a way to play bet­ter and win games no mat­ter who is in net.”

Late on Satur­day night, the Leafs re­turned Kasimir Kask­isuo to the Toronto Mar­lies.

Hutchin­son has played in nine NHL games this sea­son. If he plays in a 10th, he would re­quire waivers to be sent to the Toronto Mar­lies.

With An­der­sen and Sparks ap­pear­ing to be set to re­turn on Mon­day, the Leafs should not have to worry about pos­si­bly los­ing Hutchin­son on waivers.

SPARKS ON POINT

What did Sparks learn in suf­fer­ing his first con­cus­sion, which came after he took a cou­ple of shots off the mask dur­ing prac­tice on Jan. 2?

His an­swer should be re­quired read­ing across the Na­tional Hockey League.

“It’s im­por­tant to take care of it prop­erly,” Sparks said. “It’s im­por­tant to let the peo­ple who sup­port you in your life help you and it’s OK to reach out and tell peo­ple you’re not all right. Ev­ery­body just wants to see you healthy, ul­ti­mately.

“I have the best train­ing staff in the world here and it’s nice that I have that avail­able to me. For any goalies who may ex­pe­ri­ence it and not have this level of care, you just have to be care­ful and take your time and make sure you’re 100 per cent be­fore you get back out there.”

If Sparks is in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, he will know what to do.

“The first shot hurt, the sec­ond one (by Wil­liam Ny­lan­der) did the dam­age,” Sparks said. “It’s just be­ing more aware of how you feel after you get hit, tak­ing a bit of a men­tal eval­u­a­tion of your­self and not be­ing the tough guy who gets hit in the head and puts is his mask back (on) and gets back in net. Be­cause that’s why I got hurt.”

Sparks has made ad­just­ments to his mask, adding pad­ding in cer­tain ar­eas and some rub­ber shocks be­tween the cage and mask to take some pres­sure off some shots that might strike those ar­eas.

AUS­TON KEEPS AT IT

Aus­ton Matthews has just one goal in his past nine games, but he is not ly­ing awake at night, won­der­ing when he will score with reg­u­lar­ity again.

The Leafs cen­tre men­tioned he likes the play of his line, which in­cludes An­dreas Johns­son and Kasperi Ka­pa­nen, in the past few games.

“I think we’re hold­ing on the puck a lot more, mak­ing plays when the op­por­tu­ni­ties are there, they’re just not go­ing in the back of the net,” Matthews said. “It gets frus­trat­ing at times. But at the same time, you’re gen­er­at­ing all these chances, you’ve got the puck on your stick, you’re hav­ing these nights when you get five, six, seven shots on net and they’re high­scor­ing chances. There is a lot of pos­i­tive things our line is do­ing.”

JACK BOLAND / POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Goalie Fred­erik An­der­sen prac­tises in Toronto on Sun­day. He’s been out of the Leafs lineup since Dec. 22.

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