An­der­sen near­ing re­turn as Leafs pre­pare to host reel­ing Avalanche

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY JOSHUA CLIPPERTON

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.

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