Lombardi close to return

Matthew Lombardi’s year-long wait is nearly at an end.

The centre didn’t want to jinx himself, but there seem little doubt this weekend he will get into his first game since last October. It has taken that long to clear the cobwebs from a severe concussion and then get back into proper playing shape.

“If I’m feeling 100% and confident, there’s a good chance I could play,” Lombardi said of facing the Detroit Red Wings in the coming home-and-home pre-season games. “But if we’re not sure and maybe things aren’t going as well, then we’ll make a decision. I don’t think it’s a negative either way. The progress has been great (far ahead of off-season projections). Whether I get in this week or on the next little while (Toronto opens the regular season on Oct. 6), it’s great.

“This was a big week for me in terms of how I felt with the body contact. You have to feel 100% about this going in, you have to be confident. If I feel that way, I’m going to play. Since the beginning I haven’t wanted to put an exact date on it. Because you never really know what can happen with this kind of injury.”

Club doctors and the coaching staff must also give their blessing on Friday. Lombardi can play centre or wing, which helps now that a couple of forwards are hurting.