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Leafs turn to U of T goalies after Reimer injury

U of T goalie Brett Willows. http://www.varsityblues.ca

The first goaltender out on Toronto’s practice rink Friday morning was the University of Toronto’s Michael Nishi.

The good news for Maple Leafs fans was that he was followed — eventually — by James Reimer.

Reimer was forced to leave just 32 seconds into Thursday’s game against Carolina when teammate Josh Leivo accidentally clipped him in the head with his knee. Jonathan Bernier took over and finished the game, yielding a freak final goal in a 3-2 loss.

Nishi’s Varsity Blues teammate Brett Willows was summoned as an emergency backup during the Hurricanes game.

Nishi was first on the ice Friday, skating and sitting by himself for more than 10 minutes before the rest of the team, including Reimer, emerged from the dressing room at Toronto’s practice facility.

“I’m feeling good,” Reimer said later. “Obviously everyone saw what happened. I kind of got my head run over there. The new protocol is you have to come out of the game and so I did. And had a bit of a headache, so the doctors felt it was in my best interest and safety that I stay out for the rest of the game.”

He said he came to practice in the morning and worked out to get his heart rate up, to see how he felt.

“I hit the ice and felt good,” Reimer added.

Head coach Randy Carlyle said he expected Reimer to be available for Saturday’s game in Chicago.

Reimer and Bernier started in goal for the morning drills, proving Carlyle correct. He had said the previous night that Reimer had a headache and was expected to practise.

There was concern in other quarters because it’s not the first time Reimer has suffered a blow to the head.

Two seasons ago, he missed time due to concussion-like symptoms that were later linked to a neck problem, when he was hit by Montreal’s Brian Gionta in October 2011.

He was sidelined for more than a month and finished the season on the sidelines after taking a shot in practice in late March 2012 and experiencing a return of the concussion-like symptoms.

Nishi, 19, has spent time with the Windsor Spitfires, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Ottawa 67s and Guelph Storm in the OHL and Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL.

The Toronto native has yet to play for the 2-1-0 Varsity Blues this season.

Forward James van Riemsdyk also took part in practice after missing time with back spasms. He is also expected to be available when the Leafs (6-2-0) play the Hawks (4-1-2) on Saturday.