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Feeling close to 100 per cent, Andersen will make Leafs debut in Saskatoon

Anaheim Ducks goaltenders John Gibson, left, and Frederik Andersen pose with the William M. Jennings Trophy after winning the award at the NHL Awards show, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. Andersen will make his Toronto Maple Leafs debut on Tuesday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Locher
October 03, 2016 - 12:21 PM

TORONTO - Frederik Andersen will have a better grasp on his health Tuesday night when he'll make his exhibition debut in the Toronto Maple Leafs net.

The 27-year-old goalie, who has been nursing a suspected shoulder injury suffered in an Olympic qualifier for Denmark last month, is expected to play a period and perhaps more against the Ottawa Senators in Saskatoon.

"I don't know how much he's going to play, but he's going to definitely play a period," head coach Mike Babcock said after practice on Monday. "We'll see how he feels."

Andersen said he feels close to 100 per cent. Getting into game action, where the pace picks up considerably as compared to practice, would help settle any outstanding concerns.

"We've been really patient," Andersen said. "We knew we had some time to figure out and not try to rush it, which is really good. You don't want to start taking any risks. We've been taking baby steps, but really pushing it to go."

The Leafs acquired Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks in late June and quickly signed him to a rich five-year deal worth US$25 million. It was an immediate gamble on his ability to solve a starter's position that has wobbled in Toronto since Ed Belfour departed the club in 2006.

Last year's starters James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier were both dispatched at different points, the latter in a separate off-season deal with the Ducks.

Andersen finished among the top-20 goaltenders in hockey last year, posting a .919 save percentage in part-time duty alongside 23-year-old John Gibson. That performance, however, was for a stingy Stanley Cup contender in Anaheim, not the youthful Leafs squad he'll join this season.

A former third-round pick of the Ducks, Andersen was expected to compete with Jaroslav Halak for the starter's position on Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey. Instead, he was injured just before training camp when a Danish teammate ran into his crease in a match against Slovenia.

He quickly pulled out of the tournament and flew to Toronto where rehab on the injury began.

Andersen, who spent his first three NHL seasons in Anaheim, used the additional time in his new city to find a place to live and acquaint himself with new teammates and staff members.

"You work as hard as you can at that and start to remember names," he said.

He also started building his working relationship with Leafs goalie coach Steve Briere. Andersen said it was important that the two figured each other out.

"That way you build that trust and co-operation where (he) knows what way I like to play and the way he likes to do his practices," Andersen said.

Babcock typically communicates with his goaltenders through the goalie coach.

"It's not about him trying to change my game," Andersen said of Briere. "He wants to obviously build on it and take the things I'm good at and build on more things."

The Leafs conclude the exhibition slate with three games in three nights in three different cities, beginning with a Thursday tilt in Montreal.

How much Andersen plays will presumably depend on his comfort level against Ottawa. He wants to ramp it up as much as possible ahead of the Oct. 12 opener against the Senators.

"We still have this week and hopefully I can get in some of the games and start getting a feel back," he said. "The time is coming now to start getting that last push to be ready."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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