"It feels good": Injured O'Reilly inches closer to being playoff-ready for Leafs
Ryan O’Reilly has returned.
To practice, that is.
O’Reilly, who is recovering from a broken finger sustained after taking a shot to the hand on March 4 against the Vancouver Canucks, skated with teammates in a red non-contact jersey at practice on Friday.
“It feels good,” O’Reilly said post-practice. “Obviously its been, what, four weeks now since it happened. It feels good. We’re progressing. It’s not 100% yet. We’ve got to be smart. The goal is to be 100% for the playoffs. We’re being smart with that. It was nice to be out there and skate with the guys.
“We’re getting closer.”
Ryan O’Reilly front and centre in red at Leafs practice. pic.twitter.com/OEWcQiBbrY
— Joshua Clipperton (@JClipperton_CP) March 31, 2023
The 32-year-old O’Reilly was acquired from the St. Louis Blues as part of a three-team trade in February, ahead of the 2023 NHL trade deadline, but was forced out of Toronto’s lineup after suiting up for just eight games.
“I didn’t really know until I got off and I was getting unchanged,” he admitted. “Paul, the trainer, came over and asked and wanted to look at it and I kind of saw it was crooked and kind of knew it wasn’t good. Then we saw the X-ray and it was obviously disappointing. I didn’t really know. He said I probably needed surgery. I wasn’t sure how long, if I was done for the season or not.
“It was kind of good news that I wasn’t going to be out long and it happened early enough. It’s better that it wasn’t later in the season, at the time it did. Just focused on getting ready for the playoffs.”
O”Reilly, who has 24 points (15 goals, nine assists) in 48 games between the Blues and Maple Leafs, was originally expected to miss four weeks with the malady.
Ryan O’Reilly takes the ice in a 🛑 sweater
Getting set for his first practice with the team since suffering a broken finger on March 4 @TSN_Edge pic.twitter.com/ZF6kIIyFRH
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 31, 2023
“It’s nice to have him with the group,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Obviously he brings a lot with his energy and personality and all that. To be in the actual practice is great, and then of course it helps us fill some of the gaps. When you’re injured you miss some things, especially for a new guy coming in there’s some things that you’re covering that he’s not up to speed on as much. It’s a lot easier to dot hat when you’re actually with the group, so it’s nice there.
“Obviously a big step for him, one that’s been coming. He’s been feeling really good. It’s just a matter of doctors being satisfied and making sure that we’re minimizing risk as much as we can.”
O’Reilly, who also participated in an optional morning skate on Wednesday and pre-practice work on Tuesday, has time on his side.
Toronto clinched its berth in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs earlier in the week.
The Maple Leafs sit second in the Atlantic Division, four points up on the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning and 23 points behind the first-place Boston Bruins. It’s all but locked the ‘buds’ in an opening round matchup against Tampa Bay, who dispatched of Toronto in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round a year ago.
Toronto has the fourth-best odds of capturing the Stanley Cup, according to Sports Interaction.
The Bruins (+336) lead the pack, with the defending Cup champion Colorado Avalanche (+614) slotting second. The Carolina Hurricanes (+884) rank third, with the Maple Leafs (+927) sitting fourth overall, and Canada’s top choice of returning the title north for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.
“We’re obviously in a good position and such, having the points,” said O’Reilly, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner with the Blues in their run to the Stanley Cup in 2019. “It does feel good.
“It’s just being smart and making sure no setbacks and be ready for the right time.”