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Leafs ready to rumble

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs held their most heavily attended practice in over two weeks Monday morning but most of the attention still centred around Canada's gold medal triumph.

Fans in Toronto took to the streets in celebration of the big win late Sunday afternoon. People painted from head to toe were waving the red and white all over Yonge St. and the downtown core.

The party went late into the night and gave the Leafs players an indication of what would be in store if they won the Stanley Cup.
Even though his Swedish team was knocked out earlier, Mats Sundin still enjoyed the festivities after Canada won.

"I think we probably all thought about that yesterday seeing everybody downtown having a good time. It would be pretty special if we get that opportunity," Gary Roberts said.

Even Mats Sundin, who along with his Swedish mates were upset by Belarus in the Olympic quarter-finals, loved the atmosphere.

"It was nice to be in Toronto when all the celebration was going on," said Sundin who toured the festivities in his car (good idea). "It's great hockey fans here. We pretty much heard it all night."

Pat Quinn and Curtis Joseph are expected back for Tuesday's morning skate in preparation for their game against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

For the players who weren't involved with the Olympics, game action will be welcomed. Five days of practices will get the heart pumping but there are concerns.

"The problem with getting all this time off and you can skate all you want but unless you're getting some contact in and starting to get that feeling of being hit again ... it's going to take a little time," Roberts said.

The Leafs schedule does scare a lot of observers. With so many games, 24 in 46 nights, Toronto needs to get on a roll early in order to head into the playoffs on a high note.

"We've got a lot of games in a short period of time and not a lot of practice time so hopefully we've done it with our conditioning the last few days," Roberts said.

For the guys that played in the Olympics the change back to NHL rules won't be an issue.

"It's not going to be any problems to regroup and start to play in the NHL again," Mikael Renberg said. "In a city like Toronto, everybody's so into hockey, to not be focused for a game is a crime here."

Injury Front

Most of the Leafs' walking wounded completed their spirited workout on Monday.

Alex Mogilny and Cory Cross both participated in full contact drills and maybe in the lineup Tuesday night against Carolina.

Mogilny was able to handle body contact and had the puck on a string at times. The speedy Russian was back on his familiar spot alongside Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker. He injured his lower back at the end of January after being thrown into the boards.

Cross was ready to play in the Leafs last game but decided to err on the side of caution, giving his groin/abdominal injury extra time. He will be available.

The same can't be said for Dmitry Yushkevich who is still on blood thinners to alleviate a blood clot in his leg. The rugged defenceman will be sit down with management in the next couple days to discuss the pros and cons of a procedure that could have him back in the lineup by mid-March.

Forward Paul Healey was called up as insurance if Mogilny's back continues to flare up.
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