It would appear to be a sign that veteran goaltender is trending toward an NHL return in one of the team’s two remaining regular-season games this week.
Andersen was playing through a knee issue early in the season and last started for the Leafs on March 19. His recovery included about five weeks off the ice entirely and two AHL appearances for the Marlies, where he stopped 46 of the 52 shots he faced over 95 minutes.
“Today I was trying to push it a bit. Push the intensity,” Andersen said Saturday, after playing all of a 5-4 shootout loss against the Manitoba Moose.
“I think the mindset got better and better as the game went on. Playing hard on every puck and just trusting that I can have energy to play a full game.”
Andersen was eligible to remain with the Marlies for Tuesday’s game against the Laval Rocket under the terms of his LTI conditioning loan, but rejoined the Leafs instead.
Activating the goaltender from long-term injured reserve will require some roster shuffling. The Leafs have already decided to shut Rasmus Sandin down until the playoffs as part of salary cap maneuvering and likely won’t be able to activate Riley Nash from LTI if Andersen returns for either Wednesday’s game in Ottawa against the Senators or Friday’s game vs. the Jets in Winnipeg.
Still, getting Andersen some NHL action is a priority with the North Division playoffs due to begin on May 19.
“I think everyone knows the playoffs are right around the corner,” Andersen told reporters Saturday. “If I can get some game action, it would be great.”
Jack Campbell has been excellent while he’s been out — Campbell is 17-2-2 on the season with a .923 save percentage — but the Leafs will likely face a back-to-back set in Round 1 and are almost certainly going to need both goaltenders to play games in the post-season.