Bozak back after holidays?

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This article was published 19/12/2013 (2865 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Bozak back after holidays?

TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak isn't yet on the cusp of returning.

Morgan Rielly

CP

Morgan Rielly

But when he's eligible to come off long-term injured reserve Dec. 29, the Toronto Maple Leafs centre figures his torn oblique will be healed up enough to get back into the lineup.

"It's still getting better every day. It feels pretty good now," Bozak said Thursday. "If there's a problem, maybe, but right now it looks like I'll be back right when IR ends."

Bozak has been out since Dec. 5 and missed Toronto's home game Thursday night against Phoenix. And with the Leafs having placed him on the long-term list, Bozak must also miss upcoming games against Detroit, the New York Rangers and Buffalo before being free to return against Carolina three days before the Winter Classic.

The 27-year-old skated with teammates Thursday at the Air Canada Centre but he's obviously on his own track while the Leafs seek to reverse their fortunes. After missing 12 games earlier this year with a hamstring injury, Bozak is dealing with another difficult problem with his oblique.

"Kind of like the same thing last year but a lot worse this year," he said. "I don't know what it is, to be honest.

"I kind of stressed it a lot on faceoffs. I think it might've happened on that. I think it's just pretty unlucky and nothing you can get too down on yourself about."

Bozak's injury came with the Leafs already missing centre Dave Bolland, who still hasn't resumed skating after having a tendon in the back of his ankle severed in late October. The latest injury down the middle came Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers when impressive journeyman callup Trevor Smith broke a bone in his right hand blocking a shot.

"I don't know what's going on with us," Bozak said of Toronto's injury woes. "I think it's all been pretty unfortunate stuff with Smitty and Bolly, things that you never want to see happen and they can't really control by any means."

Tyler Bozak

CP

Tyler Bozak

Bozak can't control much right now other than his rehab. Being forced to watch the Leafs go 3-5-0 without him certainly hasn't helped matters.

"It's not fun to watch, it's never fun to watch," Bozak said. "It's not fun to watch if you're winning or if you're losing.

"Obviously you want to be out there helping the guys and stuff like that."

Bozak is used to being able to help, typically as the No. 1 centre alongside roommate and friend Phil Kessel, who had two goals in the eight games prior to Thursday's contest with Phoenix. Bozak hasn't had any season like this before and is trying to stay positive.

"I've not really been injured at all, knock on wood, except for college I had surgery on my one knee the one year," he said. "My first years here I missed a handful of games each year, but nothing too serious.

"Obviously it's been tough, but I hope I can come back stronger and help the team."

Faster equipment, really

Bauer has unveiled new equipment for six NHL stars that it says represents "game-changing technology."

The equipment manufacturer says its body suit and skates were designed to be so light that players could get to the puck almost a foot faster on a race from blue-line to blue-line, and new pads were made so goaltenders could get from the post to the top of the crease an inch faster.

If that is indeed the case, it could lead to more innovations in equipment from other manufacturers.

Bauer calls this the "OD1N" project, named after the ruler of the Norse gods and the Russian translation for the number one.

So far the equipment was custom-designed for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

"Our absolute focus has been towards giving these six players an advantage going into the Olympics, without question," Bauer general manager of ice hockey equipment Craig Desjardins said in a phone interview.

Rielly staying put

TORONTO -- Even though Morgan Rielly has been with the Toronto Maple Leafs since training camp, that hasn't stopped the chatter about him going elsewhere.

First it was the question of whether the Leafs would return the 19-year-old defenceman to his WHL club in Moose Jaw at the nine-game mark. In recent weeks it has been about whether they'd loan him to Team Canada to play in the upcoming world junior hockey championship in Malmo, Sweden.

General manager Dave Nonis made official Wednesday that Rielly would be sticking around and not representing Canada.

The news, which seemed likely after Rielly played in five straight games, came as a relief to the blue-liner.

"To be honest with you, I'm just happy it's over," Rielly said Thursday. "I can just kind of change gears a little bit and just worry about playing well here in Toronto and just try to help the team."

Rielly is averaging just under 18 minutes a game, so it's not like he has been a bit player this season. He has appeared in 27 of the Leafs' 36 games, but three straight as a healthy scratch earlier this month fuelled world junior speculation.

Since returning from the press box, Rielly has a goal and hasn't been in any real danger of being exiled again. So naturally he's not going anywhere.

-- The Canadian Press