March 15, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) skates during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gardiner Assigned To Marlies

The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent defenseman Jake Gardiner down to the Toronto Marlies. Gardiner returned to action on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins after being out since December 8th with a concussion. He also played last night against the New York Islanders, but did not record a point in either game.

Gardiner got off to a strong start earlier this year while with the Marlies during the lockout, recording 17 points in just 22 games. He figured to be a fixture on the Maple Leafs blueline this season, but his concussion has thrown a wrench into those plans for the time being.

However, before Leaf fans hit the panic button, Gardiner’s demotion to the Marlies is probably more about conditioning than anything else. Missing well over a month certainly takes a toll on a player, and TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting that the move is just so Gardiner can adjust to the speed of the game. It’s not that Gardiner played poorly upon his return, but he definitely didn’t look like his normal self. One would expect that in a couple of weeks he should be called back up to the big club. The Leafs have plenty of defensemen at their disposal right now, which should make the move a little easier.

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