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Leafs’ Gardiner (concussion) off IR, expected to make season debut tonight

Jan 23, 2013, 5:21 PM EST

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Jake Gardiner Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have activated Jake Gardiner off injured reserve, and the 22-year-old defenseman is expected to make his season debut Wednesday night against Pittsburgh.

According to Paul Hendrick of the Maple Leafs website, Gardiner will replace Korbinian Holzer in the lineup. Holzer made his season debut in Monday’s loss to Buffalo, playing 15:09 and finishing with a minus-1 rating.

The return of Gardiner will be a boon for Toronto’s back end. The Minneapolis native finished second among all Leafs defensemen in scoring last year — his rookie year — with 7G-23A-30PTS in 75 games.

He suffered a concussion (sorry, concussion-like symptoms) in mid-December while playing for the AHL Marlies, and has been out of action ever since.

Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle had openly pined for Gardiner’s return to the lineup, mostly recently in an interview with the National Post.

“We could use his offensive and puck-carrying ability,” Carlyle said. “He’s a special player. When he tells us he’s ready, I would say we’re probably going to find a spot for him in the lineup.”

Related: Reimer likely starter for Leafs tonight in Pittsburgh

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