A lighter, healthier Allison looking to break back into NHL in Toronto

September, 16, 2009

TORONTO -- My first reaction upon seeing Jason Allison on the ice at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday morning was how slender he looked.

He insisted afterward that he's just seven pounds lighter than when he lasted skated in the NHL. We'll agree to disagree on that one. He looks much lighter and that will help him in his bid to resume his NHL career after a three-year absence.

"I feel great, better than I have in a long, long time," said Allison, who battled a serious neck problem in his last NHL go-around.

This may surprise a lot of you, but in his last season (2005-06), he collected 60 points (17-43) in 66 games with these same Maple Leafs before slipping away from the game.

Now he's on a tryout hoping to make it back.

"At the end of last season, I kind of got the itch," said Allison, who put up 95 points with the 2000-01 Boston Bruins.

"Jason Allison is 34. I think the average fan would guess he's 37 or 38," Leafs GM Brian Burke told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "But he's 34 and has no clicks on the odometer really for the last four or five years. So he's healthy now, he had some personal issues, went through a tough divorce, but he's got all that behind him.

"I think he can make a contribution. Now, for any player to come to camp without a contract, it's hard for them to stick. But I hope he does it. He's looked good so far."

Allison picked the right team for his comeback attempt. The Leafs are starving for offensive help up front. That doesn't mean he'll make the club, but it means Toronto will give him a legitimate look. So far, he said the three-year absence hasn't hurt him too much.

"All through camp, I've felt like I've seen the ice well and been able to make plays," said Allison. "That's what has made me successful throughout my career. There are other things I'd like to be doing better, but I'm extremely happy with where I'm at."

He has a number of preseason games to show he belongs, starting Wednesday night against Boston.

"Usually in preseason, you would just work on different things," said Allison. "But now I'm in a position where I have to bring out my A-game and play well."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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