Maple Leafs forward Thornton back at practice, plans to play Monday against Senators

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Toronto forward Joe Thornton practised with the Maple Leafs on Sunday for the first time since suffering a fractured rib almost four weeks ago.

The 41-year-old expects to return to the lineup Monday against the visiting Ottawa Senators.

“It was unfortunate but I feel really good now,” Thornton said. “I can’t wait to play tomorrow.”

Thornton went on the long-term injured reserve list after he was hurt in a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 20. He had two points in five games for the Maple Leafs before missing the team’s next 10 games.

“I’ve got no restrictions,” Thornton said. “So the hardest part is over, the rehab is pretty much over. Now I can just go out and focus on playing.”

Thornton played on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner earlier this season and that trio was back together at Sunday’s practice.

“I just thought they had good chemistry,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “I thought a lot of the things that I was hoping would happen with the line were happening. Joe with his skillset and the way that he moves the puck complemented those guys very well.”

The 11-3-1 Maple Leafs lead the North Division standings with 23 points.

Thornton signed a one-year contract with Toronto for the league minimum of US$700,000 in October, ending a 15-year run with the San Jose Sharks.

He has 1,511 points (421-1,090) in 1,641 career NHL regular-season games for the Maple Leafs, Sharks and Boston Bruins. Thornton also has 133 points (31-102) in 179 career playoff games.

The six-foot-four 220-pound native of London, Ont., was selected by the Bruins with the first overall pick of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.