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Nazem Kadri practising with Leafs, 'feeling good' after concussion

VANCOUVER — Nazem Kadri hates sitting on the sidelines but knows that when it comes to concussions, staying off the ice is a big part of the recovery process.

"Health is important, especially when it comes to your head. And I think we've done a good job just taking our time," the Toronto Maple Leafs centre said Tuesday in Vancouver where his team was preparing to battle the Canucks.

The 28-year-old native of London, Ont., has missed seven games after a big hit from St. Louis Blues defenceman Vince Dunn left him with a concussion on Feb. 20. Toronto lost the game 3-2 in overtime.

Kadri said the hit was clean, despite the injury.

"There really wasn't much option. I was cutting through the middle. I knew he was there, I just didn't have anywhere else to go," he said. "It was a good hit. I got up, I felt like I wasn't myself through the next few shifts and decided to pull the plug from there."

William Nylander has been sliding over from the wing to help fill the centre spot. 

On Tuesday, Kadri put in a full practice with his teammates and told reporters after that he was feeling good.

"It's been a bit of a process but I like the progression," he said, describing his status as "day-to-day."

"I've been feeling better each and every day and that's exactly what you want."

The process of getting back to full health hasn't been easy, Kadri added, noting that he's been through a few hard skates to get his conditioning back.

"They haven't been the most fun thing in the world, but it's part of the process," he said.

When Leafs fans will see the veteran back in the lineup remains to be seen, however.

Coach Mike Babcock said Kadri's eligibility for Wednesday night's match up against the Canucks will depend on how his body responds to the psychical exertion of Tuesday's practice.

"We're just going to talk to the trainers (on Wednesday morning)," Babcock said. "What we do after a practice like this, if he's feeling good, we see how he's feeling in the morning and then we'll talk to our medical people and our medical people will tell us what's going on."

At least one of Kadri's teammates is eager to see him return to the lineup.

"He's just another big player for us, a big part of this team," Auston Matthews said. "He obviously does a lot in his role. I know what he does for us is great. So any time you can add a player of his calibre back in the line up, I think it makes our team that much better."

With 35 points across 59 games, Kadri sits seventh in the Leafs' scoring race.

But Toronto has amassed five wins and a pair of losses in his absence, including a 6-2 road victory over the Pacific Division-leading Calgary Flames on Monday.

It isn't surprising that others have stepped up and found the back of the net recently, Kadri said. 

"Looking down our lineup, there's a bunch of guys that are threats offensively and we've been playing some pretty sound defensive hockey also and (Frederik Andersen's) been great," he said. "So I think that combination definitely could be lethal."

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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