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The Official Site of the Toronto Maple Leafs

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
February 5, 2003


(TORONTO) -- We were on a great roll before Christmas and then unfortunately we hit the injury bug. Not that you want to use that as an excuse, but when you suffer as many injuries as we were suffering, it became very difficult to maintain the unbeaten streak that we were going through.

I think looking back, we did a really good job of getting through some of our down time even though we didn't play as well as we would have liked. Every team goes through it.

Joe hams it up with the mascot at a recent Raptors game.
(Ron Turenne/Getty Images)

The schedule is such a grind it isn't easy to keep streaks that we get on. Now we've won five of our last seven and we're getting some bodies back and the team is right where we want to be.

The playoff races were pretty clear early on in the season, that Philly and New Jersey were going to be running with their division. Us and Ottawa, even though they struggled early, you knew they were going to be there in the end and sure enough  they're back in the race now.

You really can't count out some of the other teams. I mean I just saw that Tampa Bay is six points behind us, Montreal is not far off and Boston is right there with us now.

Regardless of playoff position, I don't think that is our focus. Although we are watching what other teams are doing we aren't overly concerned with it. We just have to take care of our own business and get ready for the playoffs. Whoever we play, we play.

I've really enjoyed playing on the "Sky-line" as some people are calling it. It's been good to see the development of those two guys (Antropov and Ponikaravsky) over the course of the year, especially from Ponikarovsky. I think he's really made leaps and bounds in the last couple of months. It's great to see.

When you play with a guy like that it brings some youthful energy. It's exciting for me as an older player. We've developed some good chemistry, coming up with some big goals and helping our team win.

As far as my injury situation goes I just got sandwiched between Redden and Chara. Then Chara gave me a little cross check in the ribs and I wasn't quite ready for it. It's one of those things where you get a strain in the rib muscle and it takes awhile to heal.

Hopefully a short while rather than a long while. I really don't know when I'll be back. I think with the luxury of having the All-Star break ahead of us, that gives me some time to recoup for what's ahead.

We realize this is a big week for us with the game up in Ottawa so we're not looking beyond the break. I think our team is pretty focused in that we don't look too far ahead. I know it's a cliche, but we take it one game at a time.

Thanks for checking in with me and I'll talk to you in my next entry.

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