Bozak has missed the last 21 games with the first concussion of his career, injured on a hit to the head by Senators forward Mika Zibanejad on Feb. 6. It’s the longest absence due to injury that the 30-year-old has endured in a career that began in 2009.
“It’s the first one I’ve had so it was weird and it was tough,” Bozak said. “It’s nice to be done with it now.”
While frustrated to sit for nearly seven weeks with the injury, Bozak said it did offer him bonus time with his infant son, Kanon. Still, Bozak struggled with the uncertainty of his recovery.
“You don’t really know what each day’s going to bring for you so I think that was tough,” he said. “I’d feel really good one day and the next day I wouldn’t. It’s a frustrating injury for sure and it’s something you can’t rush and you’ve got to be patient with which is also frustrating. It’s just a new challenge every day so that was probably the toughest part for me.”
Bozak is expected to play alongside rookies Josh Leivo and Connor Brown against the Ducks. He was one of Toronto’s leading scorers before getting hurt, racking up 31 points in 47 games while sitting fifth in the NHL with a 57.8 per cent success rate in the faceoff circle.
He adds experience down the middle to a Leafs team that dressed two rookies at centre in their last game, a 5-2 win over Calgary. One of those rookies, 20-year-old Frederik Gauthier, was returned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies with Bozak due back.
Toronto has won four of their last five games and five of their past seven outings, sitting a point back of Winnipeg for 29th overall entering Thursday’s action.
The Leafs lineup has changed drastically since Bozak last played. Twelve of the 20 players he last played with have been traded or lost to injury. The club has lost 300 man-games to injury, including James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Matt Hunwick, all of whom will not play again this season.