TORONTO — The Maple Leafs may have to go back to Jonathan Bernier in net, and not by design.
James Reimer, who has started 11 of the past 12 games for Toronto, left halfway through Tuesday's 45-minute practice with an undisclosed injury. He was able to skate to the bench on his own and after speaking to trainers, decided to leave the ice for good.
The Maple Leafs are off until Saturday's home game against Washington.
"He left the ice, I didn't check," head coach Mike Babcock said after practice. "We have a while to our next game, I don't know if he over-reacted, under-reacted, I don't know nothing about it."
If Reimer is unable to play against the Capitals, Bernier would likely get just his second start this month. His last start, after returning from an injury of his own, was on Nov. 15 — a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers that included a goal by Derek Stepan from near centre ice.
The 27-year-old native from Laval, Que., is still in search of his first victory this season. He is 0-7-1 in eight games with a 3.17 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.
Reimer, meanwhile, is 7-3-3 in 14 starts with a 2.01 GAA and .936 save percentage.
Babcock said he's been pleased with Bernier's work ethic at practice despite his inconsistencies and that if the chance for a start against the Capitals comes his way, to maximize it.
"The bottom line is when it's not going as good as you want to, you've got to get to work and fix it," said Babcock. "Confidence is the biggest thing, always.
"He's a good goaltender, he's been a good goaltender and I'm sure he'll be one again. So now when his next opportunity comes he's got to be ready for it."
The Leafs will have to recall a goaltender from the AHL Marlies if Reimer is not available.
When Bernier was hurt earlier in the month, Toronto summoned 21-year-old Antoine Bibeau. This time, though, Garret Sparks could get a turn.
Bibeau has struggled since returning to the Marlies, allowing 12 goals in his last two starts. His save percentage has dipped to .881 while his GAA has risen to 3.26 over eight starts.
Sparks, in 10 starts, has a .938 save percentage with a 1.90 GAA.
Roman Polak also missed practice Tuesday and is considered day to day. Babcock said the defenceman had difficulty putting his foot in his skate after blocking a shot in Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston.
Kyle Cicerella, The Canadian Press