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Lindros Optomistic about Return

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

January 13, 2005

TORONTO (CP) -- It was supposed to be a day of clarity about the status of Eric Lindros' injured wrist.

Instead, there was more confusion surrounding the big centre and when he might skate again for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Within minutes of Lindros telling reporters he may be able to play in a little more than two weeks, Leafs coach Pat Quinn was slightly less optimistic about the prognosis on Friday.

"A lot of this information comes to me through you guys,'' Quinn said. "As far as I know, we've got to wait until they take the cast off.''

It may be a case of Quinn being too cautious or Lindros being too optimistic. Either way, No. 88's fate is far from clear.

Lindros has been out of the lineup with a torn ligament in his right wrist since Dec. 10. Originally, doctors hoped it would heal on its own before a hard cast was placed on his wrist a week ago in an effort to prevent season-ending surgery.

The 32-year-old then had his wrist examined by a specialist on Thursday and said he would have more news on the extent of the injury Friday.

That news ended up being that the cast would be removed in 12 days, "(then) I'll grab a stick for a couple days and I should be ready to go.''

He said the injury is no longer causing him pain and that he was relieved to finally have some good news about it.

"There's been some long days around here,'' Lindros said. "There's a little bit of light here so I feel good about that.''

Even though Quinn wasn't as enthusiastic about Lindros' status, he was happy that at least one injured player seemed ready to return for Saturday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Nik Antropov, out of the lineup since Dec. 12 with a knee injury, skated on a line with Jason Allison and Alexei Ponikarovsky at practice.

"We're going to stick him in there (against the Coyotes),'' Quinn said of the lanky forward.

Mariusz Czerkawski, who missed Thursday's practice, was also back on the ice and should be ready to play if needed. His status likely hinges on the availability of Darcy Tucker, who took a "maintenance'' day off from practice on Friday to nurse injured ribs.

Defenceman Bryan McCabe is certain to miss his second straight game with a groin injury.

Despite all the uncertainty about who will be available to suit up for his team each night, Quinn said he is remaining calm.

"Some years you have lots (of injuries) and some years it's a lot better,'' he said. "We seem to have had a share here in the last while.

"We're lucky we've got good people to fill in and we've done relatively well.''

Those sentiments were echoed in the dressing room.

Toronto is coming off a 1-2 Western road trip and is only six points up on ninth-place New Jersey in the Eastern Conference. To stay ahead of the teams below them, the Maple Leafs will have to play well during a stretch of seven games on the road out of 10 -- no matter who is in the lineup.

"Things aren't going to get any easier,'' said captain Mats Sundin.

After Saturday's game against Phoenix, the Maple Leafs head to Ottawa where they'll play two games in three nights against the struggling Senators, who are also missing several players because of injury.

Ideally the Leafs are hoping to keep it together and maintain their position until the two-week Olympic break, which begins after their game on Feb. 11.

Until then, they'll just have to make do with what they have.

"Everything just seemed to hit us all at once,'' said forward Matt Stajan. "We're just going to have to play through it. It happens to every team.''

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