The pressure of winning an Olympic gold medal has subsided for Phil Kessel.
Now he and his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates can concentrate on less stressful endeavors – like the trade deadline and the final 22 games of the season. Shall we add the pressure of having a seven point cushion for the last playoff spot to the 2013/2014 NHL season equation?
Kessel returned to the ice Wednesday at Toronto’s MasterCard Centre practice facility in preparation for the squad’s first game following the Olympic break. The Blue and White travel to New York to play the Islanders on Thursday.
The Leafs are certainly looking to Kessel for leadership on offense, but are also going to have to rely on forward David Clarkson, below, as well – especially after a number of suspensions and injuries following his summer $36 million contract signing.
Twenty-nine year old Troy Bodie, below, wants to impress during these last 22 games, as well, for a number of reasons – not the least of which is his new father-in-law is Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke.
Goaltender James Reimer will most certainly see considerable ice time in the last 22 games of the regular season, sharing duties with Jonathan Bernier over the 45-day schedule.