Andersen nearing return as Leafs prepare to host reeling Avalanche
Mike Babcock has made a habit during recent media availabilities of trying to head off questions concerning the Maple Leafs’ goalie situation before reporters even get a chance to ask.
While that was the case again Sunday - Toronto’s head coach said he doesn’t know the identity of his starter for today’s visit from the Colorado Avalanche roll call at practice and Frederik Andersen’s answers suggest the club is on the verge of getting its No. 1 netminder back in the crease.
Out since Dec. 28 with a groin injury before getting cut down by a flu bug that forced him to miss Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins, Andersen was on the ice with teammates and declared himself fit if called upon.
“I definitely feel ready to go,” he said. “But we’ll see.”
Despite sitting out Toronto’s last seven games - including two where he dressed as the backup before Christmas - Andersen still sits third in the NHL in wins (20), while his .923 save percentage and 2.50 goalsagainst average puts him first and fifth, respectively, among goalies with at least 25 appearances.
He said it’s been “extremely hard” to be patient as he’s worked to get back in the lineup.
Leafs backup Garret Sparks (concussion) was also at practice and said he’s cleared medically to play.
That relegated Michael Hutchinson, who is 2-3-0 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA in five emergency starts following a trade with the Florida Panthers in late December, to a workout with assistant coaches following Sunday’s main session.