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A Player Diary With ... Joe Nieuwendyk

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Joe joins the Leafs as a home-town boy who's seen success everywhere he's played. Joe keeps you up to date throughout the season with his periodic player diaries.

-- Maple Leafs Centreman
December 9, 2003

I think we left off just before the injury bug hit me. The back issue kind of flared up on me. It's hard to pinpoint why these things happen, but it may have had something to do with the injury I sustained during the playoffs last year. It was difficult to get over for awhile there.

We went on that long road trip and things weren't going so well. I felt like I won a trip with the Leafs in some contest. I wasn't playing, just travelling with the guys. It was a frustrating time for the team and for myself personally.

I tried to play in Calgary because I wanted to get back and be part of the solution and I think I should have practised a little more and strengthened up the back before I played. As a result, I was out another 10 days or so.

In Edmonton we had a closed-door meeting and Mats (Sundin) said some things that really were the right things to say at the time and we haven't lost since.

Joe says the team is believing in each other more than at the start of the season.
(Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)

I think we're trusting everyone now. Earlier in the season there was a lot of indecision, maybe a little bit of finger pointing. I just don't think we really thought everybody could do the job they were supposed to do.

Everybody believes in each other now. I think that's the biggest difference.

When you know that the D is going to make the plays and you know the forwards are going to be there. It's that peace of mind really helps our game.

We're playing a lot smarter too. We're not turning the puck over and we're getting the puck deeper. We're just playing a better brand of hockey.

I've been back for five games now and it's great to be back because the team is confident and we're playing together and that's the most important thing.

When Gary (Roberts) went down and I got to play the first two games of my career on the wing, it was an experience and I enjoyed it. For me it doesn't matter where I play or who I play with as long as the team is winning, that's all that matters.

When you play with Mats, he's a big man that draws a lot of attention so it gives you a little extra room out there.

I'm on a new line now. I've had one game and one practice togther with Owen (Nolan) and Matt (Stajan), so it's early, but they're two good players. Matt is mature for his age and playing with a lot of confidence. Owen seems to be playing with a lot of energy and a lot of grit in his game.

All four lines are a part of this streak right now and need them all firing. It's a long season and you have to have all four lines contributing. We're rolling the lines right now, we didn't so much last game, but you know it's important to have everybody involved.

If we continue to play the good style of hockey that we're playing we still may get some losses. We can't veer away from what we're doing right, that would be more disappointing than a loss.

We will lose some games along the way, but as long as we continue to do the little things well, we're going to win more games than we're going to lose.

All in all, I'm just trying to blend in with this group of guys. I think we're doing this thing together. I'm not doing anything I wouldn't normally doing as a leader and neither are any of the other guys. I think we've just really come together, we're believing in one another and we're having a lot of fun.

Until next time ... happy holidays and enjoy the New Year.



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