MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - It's been a frustrating season for Chad Kackert.
Injuries have forced the speedy running back to miss nine of Toronto's 16 games this year. After sitting out two weeks with a shoulder ailment, Kackert returns Thursday night when the Argonauts (10-6) face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-13) at Rogers Centre.
Kackert has been plagued by knee and shoulder (twice) injuries as well as a concussion this season. But heeding some friendly advice has helped the 2012 Grey Cup MVP put his struggles into proper perspective.
"It's been frustrating but it's been a learning experience," Kackert said. "When you're not playing you have too much time to think and thankfully I got some good advice from some friends back home and have been able to find some peace and make the most out of the circumstance."
Kackert drew solace from English writer Rudyard Kipling's poem "If," an inspirational sonnet about character and integrity and remaining true to one's self. In fact, two lines from Kipling's composition — "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same," — are featured above the players' entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
"It kind of talks about stuff you hear about every day but the way he words it is unique," Kackert said. "(The poem offers) perspective and that if I let anything get to my character, then I've lost.
"I kind of had to take that in and understand that's the one thing I do have that can't be taken away."
Injuries have taken Kackert's big-play potential from Toronto's offence for much of this season. The five-foot-eight, 206-pound Kackert has managed just 60 carries but is averaging a solid 6.7 yards per attempt.
Kackert rushed for 112 yards and a TD on 10 carries in Toronto's season-opening 39-34 win over Hamilton on June 28. He ran for a season-high 155 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in a 34-22 victory over Edmonton on Sept 28.
"He's got that explosiveness," Argos quarterback Ricky Ray said of Kackert. "We've seen it this year and last where he gets a crease and he's gone for a touchdown.
"That's a big game-changer. It changes momentum, it changes field position, it gets you going offensively. Just to have that big-play ability back in the lineup is going to be big for us."
Argos head coach Scott Milanovich agrees.
"Kack is fast . . . and when he's playing well he's very decisive, he hits the hole and then he goes," Milanovich said. "That's what we're looking for.
"We don't want to see him out there dancing and being indecisive. We want him to get through that hole before they can close it and get north and south and run away from people."
Kackert's returns at a good time for Toronto, which can clinch first in the East — and home field for the division final — with a win. An Argos victory would give them top spot for the first time since 2007 and just the third time since 1997.
"I did," Milanovich said when asked if he told his players what was on the line Thursday night. "But they're well aware of what the reward is."
Toronto eliminated Winnipeg from playoff contention with last weekend's 26-20 road victory.
Kackert and the Argos know the importance of finishing strong. Toronto was 6-12 in 2011 but 3-1 over its final four regular-season games, momentum Kackert said the club carried into last season when it captured the 100th Grey Cup.
"We've been in their shoes before," Kackert said. "We just have to make sure we're fighting for our goal more than they're fighting for theirs.
"At this point it might be easy to say we share a common goal where they might be fighting for their own jobs."
Toronto has a CFL-best 7-2 road record but is just 3-4 at Rogers Centre. However, Milanovich said the Argos' formula for success is a simple one, regardless of where they play.
"The things we like to think we've built our foundation on are protecting the football, winning the field-position battle on special teams and winning the penalty battle," he said. "When we've done that, whether we're at home or on the road we've won games.
"We're just looking for some more consistency from all three phases."
Winnipeg has a league-worst 1-7 road record but Milanovich isn't taking the Bombers for granted.
"These guys are professional football players, they're paid to do a job," he said. "I expect they'll play hard and play well, I don't know we can look at it any other way.
"(When) you've got nothing to lose you can kind of come out and just let it all hang out and those kinds of teams can be very dangerous. We're going to have to be at our best, there's no doubt about it."
NOTES — Ray is a man with simple needs. He turned 34 on Wednesday and when asked what gifts he received, Ray said he got a set of headphones and ice cream cake . . . Argos slotback Andre Durie leads the CFL with 685 yards after catch. That's the most ever since the league began compiling the stat in 2010 . . . Toronto safety Matt Black returns to the starting lineup Thursday night . . . Argos receiver Chad Owens has regained the lead in CFL all-purpose yards despite missing four games with a rib injury. Owens is attempting to win the combined yards crown for a record fourth straight year. Owens and Winnipeg's Dave Raimey (1966-'68) are the only players to have won it three consecutive years.