Andersen hopes to return before Stanley Cup Playoffs for Maple Leafs

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Frederik Andersen said he’d like to play a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs before the end of the regular season after participating in a full practice for the first time in five weeks Monday.

“It’s great if I can get in action,” Andersen said. “I think we have different options to try to do that.

“Right now my focus is more just to see how it progresses day by day. I think we still have some time hopefully to get into some game action.”

The goalie has not played since a 4-3 loss at home to the Calgary Flames on March 19 because of a lower-body injury. He said he’s been dealing with issues with his knee and has embraced the time to heal.

Coach Sheldon Keefe said he would welcome Andersen’s return before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but cautioned that there is no timetable in place. Jack Campbell and David Rittich have been handling the goalie duties for the Maple Leafs in Andersen’s absence.

“Of course that would be great for us, but our focus right now is just to go through this process and get Fred feeling comfortable and get him ready for game action, whenever that is,” Keefe said. “He’s been going along the path and trying to find the form at such a time where he deems himself ready to go and feels comfortable. 

“Until that time, Jack and Rittich are going to go for us.”

Toronto (30-13-5) is first in the seven-team Scotia North Division, eight points ahead of the second-place Winnipeg Jets. The Maple Leafs are scheduled to play at the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and have eight games remaining before the regular season ends May 14 with a road game at the Jets. The start date for the playoffs has not been announced.

Andersen missed four games with a lower-body injury Feb. 22-March 1 before returning and playing seven of Toronto’s next eight games. He said March 18 that the injury that caused him to miss those games was bothering him when he returned.

Andersen is 13-8-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage in 23 games (22 starts) this season. He accompanied the Maple Leafs on their recent four-game road trip to Vancouver and Winnipeg and said being around his teammates helped his outlook.

“Just being with the group and being back out there today, it’s been a boost in my mood,” he said. “Getting to spend some time with the guys, going on the road, getting out of the condo and not just sitting at home and rehabbing by myself. I think that was huge. I was happy to do that.”

Andersen said he must overcome two issues before he plays again: pain management and building up stamina.

“Getting up to speed again. That’s the first challenge when you don’t skate and haven’t seen pucks in a while,” he said. “That’s the final thing: speed. That’s the deciding factor. That’s why I feel inclined to get up to speed again.”

Andersen, who ranks fourth in Maple Leafs history with 149 wins, said he is not concerned that he can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this injury-plagued season. 

“Not really because I know what I’m worth,” he said. “I’m a great goalie.”

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