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Getting healthy at right time

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - Good news on the injury front has been hard to come by for the Toronto Maple Leafs but slowly the players are beginning to trickle back into the lineup.

Jyrki Lumme and Shayne Corson laced up the blades in the Leafs 4-1 drubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Air Canada Centre. The contest marked Toronto's final regular season home game and their 40th win of the season.

Whether the win had anything to do with the return of the valuable pair of skaters is debatable. Simply because the Blue Jackets are so bad the baby Leafs, who are in town Wednesday night for a playoff game, may have walked away with this victory.

Darcy Tucker had two assists against the Blue Jackets.
Graig Abel Photography
Lumme did pick up his fourth goal of the season, one of the Leafs three first-period goals, and Corson contributed on a line with Tie Domi and Travis Green, but their presence alone was more of a factor than anything else.

"We're just trying to get back to playing the way we can and do things right," Lumme said. "It would be nice to have everybody back but at the same time, everybody just has to do what they're supposed to do and play in the system."

The Leafs have been going through an injury plague that still has Dmitry Yushkevich (blood clot), Gary Roberts (rib muscle), Curtis Joseph (hand) and Tom Barrasso (hamstring) on the shelf. Combine that with nagging injuries to Mikael Renberg (hamstring), Garry Valk (shoulder; took the skate but didn't play) and Domi (shoulder) and it's an epidemic.

Keeping pace in the Eastern Conference is hard enough with a full roster of players let alone with regulars forced to sit. But now it looks as though Toronto will probably get everyone back for the playoffs.

Joseph will practice with real pucks on Tuesday and will be travelling with the team when it embarks on a season-ending three-game road trip. The team makes stops against the Rangers, Penguins and Senators.

"(Joseph's) been making good steps and if those steps continue hopefully he'll play a game before the end of the season," Coach Pat Quinn said.

Roberts and Yushkevich probably won't play until the opening round begins just because of the nature of their injuries. Roberts needs time and nothing else to recover from his partially torn muscle. Yushkevich is still in limbo even though he's said he will open the playoffs. As it is, he continues to practice with extra-padding and a full face-shield.

"Again this is something that is not clear cut at this point and we're not at the stage where we can say that it is," Quinn said about the difficult scenario surrounding his defenceman.

Without any further damage, the Leafs are set up to be healthy for a first-round battle with the Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders or Carolina Hurricanes. Now it's just a matter of playing out the rest of the schedule and keeping everyone standing.

Notes: Wade Belak took decisions over Jody Shelley and Jamie Allison much to Tie Domi's delight. Domi sore shoulder wouldn't allow him to mix it up with Shelley in the first period so Belak came to his defence, something that touched him deeply ... Corey Schwab tied a career high with 11 wins ... Epsen Knutsen's goal was the sixth short-handed goal the Leafs have surrendered this year ... Pat Quinn has had 40-win seasons in three of his four with Toronto and eight during his coaching career ... The Leafs gave lucky winners the jerseys off their backs following the game.
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