ARLINGTON, Va. – There is no telling when Jonathan Bernier might be back in the goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Even though the NHL team doesn’t believe the lower-body injury that knocked him out of Thursday’s game in Los Angeles was serious, Toronto clearly plans to proceed with caution when it comes to the No. 1 goaltender’s status.
Bernier didn’t participate in practice with his teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday afternoon. Instead, he received some off-ice treatment while the Leafs began looking into whether they could set up a MRI for him in the Washington area or whether he would have to be sent back to Toronto to receive one.
“We don’t think (the injury) is that severe, but we’d always like to make sure that you are making the right decision there,” said coach Randy Carlyle.
Drew MacIntyre was recalled from the American Hockey League and will back up James Reimer when the Toronto faces the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Bernier has carried most of the goaltending load for the Leafs in recent months – he made 24 starts in the last 30 games – but Reimer was spectacular in relief against the Kings, turning aside all 31 shots he faced in a 3-2 victory.
Bernier began that game against his former team feeling stiff, according to Carlyle, and aggravated the injury while sprawling across his crease to deny Anze Kopitar on a point-blank opportunity in the first period. He was taken out during the intermission.
“We felt comfortable putting Reims in and obviously the way he played – he shut them out the rest of the way,” said Carlyle. “You can’t complain about that, that’s for sure.”
Bernier is in his first season as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL and has made 50 appearances for the Leafs. That is the most action he has seen since 2008-09, when he played 58 games for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
The 25-year-old has been one of the keys to Toronto’s success and sits third in save percentage (.925) among goalies that have made at least 40 starts.
As for Reimer, he was looking forward to making his first back-to-back appearances since Jan. 23 and Jan. 25. He also faced more questioning about his decision to stay in Thursday’s game after being hit in the head by Jarret Stoll’s skate while diving out to play the puck.
The goaltender has a concussion history and acknowledged after the game he had a slight headache, but indicated that everything has felt normal since then. He added that he knows his body well and dismissed the incident as a “non-issue.”
“I think it was pretty wise,” said Reimer. “I felt that I was ready to go and everyone felt that I was ready to go. I’m sure people have emotions over it, people have opinions, but we deemed that I was ready to go.”
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf also missed practice on Saturday with the flu, but Carlyle said he was “probable” for Sunday’s game at Verizon Center.