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Leafs ponder best ways to rest battered Kessel

Nashville Predators v Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 18: Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skate up the ice against the Nashville Predators during NHL game action November 18, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Despite all the jersey-chucking and drama, the Toronto Maple Leafs are pretty comfortably in a playoff spot, at least at this moment. The franchise knows how quickly such fortunes can change, which makes handling Phil Kessel’s injury situation that much trickier.

It’s no secret that he’s not feeling well, even if his particular ailments are unclear.

TSN’s Mark Masters reported on Saturday that Kessel admitted his health “has been better.” He may, in fact, be dealing with multiple issues, according to HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman.

The 27-year-old’s minutes were limited during last night’s 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks, and the Leafs would be wise to monitor this situation until he’s closer to 100 percent.

Their schedule makes it a little challenging, though.

The good news is that he gets a nice break right now, as they don’t play again until Toronto hosts the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. The bad news is that the Maple Leafs’ schedule is heavy on back-to-back sets in the near future.

Here they are:

Dec. 9 vs. Calgary; Dec. 10 at Detroit

Dec. 13 vs. Detroit; Dec. 14 vs. Los Angeles

Dec. 20 vs. Philadelphia; Dec. 21 at Chicago

Jan. 2 at Minnesota; Jan. 3 at Winnipeg

Granted, he could heal up quite a bit in the next few days or couple of weeks (at least by “everyone gets beat up during an 82-game season” standards), yet perhaps the Maple Leafs should tread lightly in some of these back-to-back sets.

Being without their best scorer doesn’t sound appealing for a team that still seems set on “bubble” status, yet one positive sign is that they’re not depending as much on that top line, which is a point TSN’s Jonas Siegel has been hammering on quite a bit.

Would it be wise for Toronto to let Kessel heal up or is not worth risking crucial standings points in doing so?

Follow James O’Brien @cyclelikesedins