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A Step in the Right Direction?

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
January 24, 2006

TORONTO (CP) -- There are two players, in particular, who the Toronto Maple Leafs can call upon to end their slump.

Mats Sundin and Mikael Tellqvist.

Sundin had a big game in the team's sixth straight loss, 4-3 in Ottawa on Monday, and has to have another when the Buffalo Sabres skate into Air Canada Centre on Thursday. Coach Pat Quinn would be wise to give the big Swede added ice time.

"If we keep working, like we did (Monday), I thought we had some positive things going on,'' Sundin said Tuesday. "If we can keep working on that, I think we're going to turn this thing around.''

Stop the losing now, and get injured Bryan McCabe, Eric Lindros and Darcy Tucker back, and there'll be an upswing.

Will Tellqvist get the call on Thursday night?
(Graig Abel Photography)

"All teams go through spurts like this in a season where you struggle and face some adversity,'' said Sundin. "If you come out of this on a good note, it could make your team even stronger.''

Sundin shot down a suggestion he's tiring of the constant struggles in Toronto and wishing he could play for a championship-bound team.

"My only concern is with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I don't want to go anywhere else,'' he said. "I think we have a good hockey team here.

"I think we're good enough to make the playoffs. At the start of the season, we knew it was going to be a battle. There's a lot of good teams in our conference and it's tough to get one of the eight spots, but we have a good enough hockey team here to do that. Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. Calgary showed that last time around when they went to the final.''

If Tellqvist were given the chance, the Leafs' backup goalie could get hot and help turn this thing around. He has a 2.57 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in the 12 games in which he's appeared, while Ed Belfour has a 3.37 GAA and a .889 save percentage in 37 appearances.

Quinn's loyalty to his veterans is well known, but Belfour hasn't been stealing any games. Maybe Tellqvist can.

McCabe and Lindros skated before 11 others took to the ice for an optional workout. The losing streak began when McCabe went down with a groin injury.

"I skated the last couple of days and it's progressing,'' said McCabe. "I'll keep pushing over the next couple of days and we'll see where it goes.

"I did some stops and starts so we're moving in the right direction. I haven't had any setbacks so that's a positive. I've never had a groin injury before but I'm sure I'll know when it's ready. It's not ready right now.''

Lindros was to have the cast protecting damaged ligaments in his right wrist removed Tuesday.

"Hopefully, I'll be cleared to get practising with the other guys,'' he said.

Tucker's ribs are mending and he hopes to play again "by next week sometime.''

A defenceman will be summoned from the AHL farm to replace Carlo Colaiacovo, who suffered a concussion against the Senators.

"He'll be under analysis for a while,'' said Quinn. "He had an MRI and there's no facial damage other than a cracked nose, but he got his bell run pretty good so he'll be being observed for a while.''

The media has pounced on the losing streak.

"Anytime things don't go well, there's always blame passed around and there's trade innuendo,'' said Lindros. "That's just the nature of the business.

"We've all been through it before. It's up to us to pull up our socks and perform better. We'll get everyone back in the lineup and go from there.''

Tie Domi doesn't like what he's been reading.

"You (media) guys keep drumming up this stuff, pointing fingers at people,'' he said. "Nobody is pointing fingers (in the dressing room).''

It has even been suggested that Quinn's job is in jeopardy.

"You can't even have a practice without it being filmed,'' Quinn said of the multitude of critics. "You feel invaded upon all the time.''

Like Sundin, he was encouraged by the Monday effort.

"We still made the big mistakes but the overall game was moving in the right direction,'' said Quinn. "We performed well fundamentally. We were a lot better.''

Jeff O'Neill, whose minus-15 is the worst rating on the team, admits he and his teammates are frustrated, and eager for reinforcements.

"When you lose guys like Bryan, Eric and Darcy, who are key guys for our team, obviously, the faster we get them back the better off we'll be,'' he said.

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