James Reimer has perhaps the best nickname among NHL goaltenders – “Optimus Reim – and, if fan balloting ended Friday, would be in the All-Star Game. But the man who figured to shoulder the load in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs is just trying to get back to his old self after suffering a concussion earlier this season.
Reimer has only appeared in eight games, and Friday night’s start at the Washington Capitals will be just his third appearance since rehabbing from the injury.
“I just feel like I’m getting better just with every time back on the ice here, and especially playing games,” Reimer said.
The 23-year-old got hurt Oct. 22 and didn’t come back until Dec. 3. Since then, he’s 0-1-1 with seven goals allowed on 56 shots. But Reimer said he felt better in that second game – an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils – than he did in his return against the Boston Bruins.
Coach Ron Wilson isn’t hesitating to put Reimer back out there, either, given that he doesn’t blame the goaltender for two he gave up to New Jersey early before settling down.
“They were two almost unstoppable plays. And then he played really well after that,” Wilson said. “He’s rounding into form. That’s the last thing I worry about’s our goaltending.”
Reimer talked up Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin as a few of the best players in the world. And while Reimer could be joined by at least Backstrom at the NHL All-Star Game in January, he’ll be tasked with limiting the Caps’ productivity Friday night.
“A bunch of really, really good players coming at me from all angles,” Reimer said. “We’re going to do our best to keep their chances down, but they’re probably going to get a couple, and it’ll be my job to try and stand in there and give the boys a chance to win.”