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Injuries are Leafs biggest opposition

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - There's a new phrase sweeping the Toronto Maple Leafs' locker room and it isn't a good one.

"Sidelined indefinitely" has been the explanation of choice to describe the possible long-term injuries to Dmitry Yushkevich (blood clot) and Alexander Mogilny (back) while Cory Cross (groin) has been hearing that slogan since December. It even applies to prospect Nik Antropov, who is facing six months of rehab because of a torn knee ligament.

In the wake of the recent rash of injuries head coach Pat Quinn needs someone to step up and help get through the tough situation.

Three veterans, Robert Reichel, Shayne Corson and Travis Green got the job done on Saturday for the Leafs as they dropped the Canadiens, 4-1, in a rare afternoon tilt at Air Canada Centre.

Reichel scored his 13th to open the scoring and set up Corson's goal in the Leafs' stellar first period. Goaltender Jose Theodore didn't seem to have the edge that had him riding back-to-back shutouts. In his defence, the Leafs directed 25 shots his way (14 hit the net) in the opening frame.

Aki Berg will have to be a big part of the Leafs defence with Yushkevich out.
Graig Abel Photography
Former Leaf Sergei Berezin got Montreal back in business on a two-man advantage in the second but Travis Green's garbage goal killed that momentum in the waning seconds of the period. Jyrki Lumme added a short-handed empty netter to lock down the win in the third.

The Leafs effort was impressive mostly because their ability to fill the roles left open by the injuries.

"When you lose guys to injuries obviously everybody's got to pick up the slack," Corson said. "Guys like Yushky and Almo come to battle every night and they're hard to replace."

Tucker realizes that as well but that doesn't change his personal preparation.

"I prepare the same way whether they are in the lineup or out of the lineup," Tucker said.

Although it has been tough to replace Mogilny, Yushkevich poses a much different issue because the Leafs aren't quite as deep on the blueline.

"The six of us hope to pick up the slack for him," McCabe said. "I think we have done a pretty good job so far."

Yushkevich was hopeful that with some luck he could play by March if his blood-thinning medication works perfectly. He was optimistic because doctors told him he could resume light training after treatment. In two weeks the results from special blood tests will confirm the clot's origin and that will determine the length of Yushkevich's absence.

Mogilny should be back in action after the Olympic break from his second bout with back spasms. The Leafs want to give him as much time as possible to be completely healthy before a return.

The same goes for Cory Cross, who has been slowly getting better from a pulled groin, which has kept him out of the lineup since December.

The biggest thing for Toronto is clearly to get healthy and if the team can make up some ground in the standings by the time that happens, it will be a big bonus.

Notes: Jeff Farkas recorded his first NHL point in the first period ... The Leafs won their third in four tries while the Canadiens' winning streak was stopped at two games ... Lanny McDonald received a standing ovation when honoured as one of the Leafs' 25 all-time best players.

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