TORONTO — Randy Carlyle stepped up to the microphone and knew the question about Dave Bolland’s status was coming.
CONFIRMED: Dave Bolland activated off LTIR. Will play tonight. Peter Holland taken off roster to keep under salary cap.
— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) March 22, 2014
"Who?" Carlyle said with a laugh. "Bolly is actually having an assessment done right now and I would say that he’s a probable for us for tonight."
Before game time, probable became more than likely as the Leafs activated Bolland off long-term injured reserve, paving the way for his return Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens.
Bolland missed 56 straight games since suffering a severed tendon in the back of his left ankle Nov. 2 when he was cut by the skate blade of Canucks forward Zack Kassian.
"He’s progressed along over the last three weeks to a point where the doctors feel, medically, that he’s close to 100 per cent ready," Carlyle said.
To make room for Bolland and his cap hit, the Leafs sent winger Carter Ashton to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies early Saturday afternoon and then centre Peter Holland later on.
Bolland was not made available to speak to reporters Saturday. When he addressed his status after Friday’s practice, the 27-year-old centre said that "hopefully something clicks" that allows him to feel ready to go.
"A few weeks ago when you sort of had the little doubts of when this was going to go upwards and when things were going to start getting positive, we were getting a little doubtful," Bolland said. "But things are getting up there and things are working. It’s been the little things in the gym that have helped this get stronger."
Now that he has the green light, it’s full speed ahead. Bolland is expected to centre the Leafs’ third line between Mason Raymond and David Clarkson.
That would mean Bolland is likely not to play 19 minutes 30 seconds like he did in his final full game before getting injured, but Carlyle doesn’t know if he’d limit his ice time.
"We’ll see how the game goes," Carlyle said. "Obviously you’d like to get more people involved the hockey game. Everybody talks about a four-line game. Four lines this, four lines that but we haven’t been really went that mode.
"We’d like to be able to do that on a more regular basis. With an addition of a Bolland it gives you a little bit more depth throughout your lineup with a veteran guy and it slots people more into where we envisioned them at the beginning of the year."
The lineup the Leafs envisioned and had at the start of the year also included goaltender Jonathan Bernier, but the Laval, Que., native won’t be ready to dress against the Habs. Carlyle said Bernier is still experiencing problems relating to his groin injury.
James Reimer, who did not take part in the morning skate, will make his fourth straight start. Drew MacIntyre is expected to serve as his backup.