Former Capital Erik Gustafsson is back with the Toronto Maple Leafs after spending time away on personal leave. Gustafsson, who was traded from the Capitals shortly before the trade deadline, had returned to Washington to deal with an undisclosed family matter.
On Thursday, Gustafsson told David Alter of The Hockey News that the leave was due to a health crisis for his youngest daughter, Lusie, who was dealing with undiagnosed celiac disease. Thankfully, the 18 month-old Lusie is now doing much better.
Though Lusie’s health challenges predated her father’s trade, they deteriorated after his departure. With his family still in Washington, Gustafsson left the Leafs on March 24th to be with his daughter during an eight-day hospital stay.
Lusie eventually received a diagnosis of celiac disease and was able to return home from the hospital. With Lusie’s health improving, Gustafsson rejoined the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
“She’s doing well now and they’re all at home now,” Gustafsson told The Hockey News. “Very happy that our daughter is healthy and is ok. Very happy to be back with the team, too.”
After such a scary period of unknowns, Gustafsson is grateful to have a diagnosis for his daughter.
“We’re very happy,” he said, “it’s going to be a process to get her back to 100 percent, but now we know. We’re a gluten family now.”
Since his return, Gustafsson has participated in team practices and warmed up before Tuesday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has not played a game since his departure.
“It’s going to take a little bit here for him,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said Thursday. “Yesterday was his first real practice in a couple weeks, another good hard skate today, so we’ll continue to work with him and all of that, but we’re certainly thrilled to have him back.
Gustafsson’s absence has complicated his assimilation into his new team; he has only played seven games since the trade, registering one point in that span. Still, Keefe reinforced that the health of Gustafsson’s family took precedence.
“Yeah, certainly has been far less than ideal for him and us and his adjustment here and getting in the reps and the looks that we had wanted to get him,” he said. “But circumstances are what they are. We’re just glad that he and his family are through their situation and he’s rejoined us and he’s putting in the work to get back up to speed.”
Gustafsson is expected to sit on Thursday as the Maple Leafs take on the Boston Bruins. Four regular season games will remain after that before the Leafs begin the playoffs with a first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
We at RMNB are grateful to hear Lusie is doing better, and are wishing all the best to the entire Gustafsson family.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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