MATS TAKES ONE IN THE OL' KISSER
In the first period, Leaf Captain Mats Sundin was hit in the mouth with an errant puck and was forced to leave the game.
"Our defencemen panicked and tried to fire the puck someplace and unfortunately it hit him right in the mush," said Pat Quinn following the game.
Word from Quinn is that there was extensive damage to his upper lip and teeth and doesn't expect Sundin in uniform for the final game of the regular season Saturday night vs. the Senators.
The injury however, is one that will cause a great deal of discomfort and can't be too attractive, but shouldn't prevent Sundin from performing on the ice in the fast-approaching playoffs. SEVENTH MAN CHEERS LEAFS TO VICTORY
The Toronto Maple Leafs honoured one of their most dedicated fans Thursday night as they hosted Shirley Fitzgerald, the winner of the Maple Leafs' 7th man contest.
The contest is league-wide affair with all 30 teams taking part. Entrants submitted a 250-word essay describing why they should be deemed the Leafs' biggest fan and 7th man on the ice.
After being selected as the Maple Leaf winner, Shirley will be entered in the league wide contest to win a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to step in for Gary Bettman and be NHL commissioner for a day.
| The Fitzgeralds take in the game from their Air Canada Club seats. |
In Shirley's case her son Ryan, an aspiring netminder, submitted his essay nominating his mother for her life-long dedication to the Blue and White.
Ryan described in his essay the hours she has spent at the rink as a single parent and all here efforts getting he and his elder brother to the rink.
Aside from her "hockey mom" duties, he also went on to explain the extensive Maple Leaf wardrobe Shirley enjoys and her game-night ritual of sporting the same jersey as her team whether it be home, road or the third jersey.
For her dedication, Shirley was the guest of the Leafs Thursday. After a white-knuckled drive through some uncooperative weather and rush-hour traffic from her home in Midland, Ontario, she and Ryan arrived at Air Canada Centre in time to take in the morning skate before going into the locker room and rubbing shoulders with the players and the throngs of media.
The highlight of the day arrived when she had the opportunity to meet her hockey hero, Ed Belfour along with Tie Domi, Shayne Corson, Paul Healy, Trevor Kidd and Travis Green.
| Domi played his usual physical game. |
Graig Abel Photography
"I love Eddie Belfour. I've been following him since he was in Chicago and I always said he'd end up a Maple Leaf," said Fitzgerald.
Shirley was more than a little jittery as Belfour took the time to chat with the two, autographing her No. 20 jersey (the home white of course) and Ryan's goaltending blocker.
The Fitzgeralds took in the Leaf victory from their rail seats in the Air Canada Club and were thrilled with their congratulatory mention on the arena jumbotron during a break in play.
Following the win, it was down to the Bell Media Centre for Pat Quinn's post-game presser where they were treated to the coach's dreadfully in-depth description of Mats Sundin's unfortunate injury.
According to Shirley, the tales of mouth lacerations and dental plates were good, but meeting Eddie was a whole lot better. MORE MAPLE LEAF MILESTONES
After earning his 400th career victory in New Jersey Tuesday, Ed Belfour hit another mark Thursday night. With the win the Eagle snapped Curtis Joseph's franchise record for wins in a season. He now has 37 wins and is expected to get the start Saturday versus Ottawa.
"I'm feeling strong and definitely confident and again, the guys are playing great in front of me," said Belfour of the win.
Robert Reichel managed a milestone as well as he recorded his 600th career point with his assist on Mikael Renberg's first period marker. ANOTHER DRAFTEE INKED
The Leafs announced during the game, they have signed Belleville Bulls centreman, Matt Stajan to a three-year contract. As per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Stajan was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the fourth round, 57th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
The Mississauga native recorded 34 goals and 60 assists for 94 points and a +41 rating in 57 regular season games with Belleville this season. He also was a member of Canada's 2003 National Junior Team that won the Silver Medal in Halifax earlier this season.
"I was huge," said Stajan of his World Junior experience. "On my own team I'm expected to play a mostly offensive role, but at the Juniors I was asked to be more defensive. It really helped me become a better two-way player."
Stajan was in Toronto for Thursday's game and, according to Pat Quinn he will head down to St. John's to play in their final game of the season before he brings the youngster back to Toronto to experience the playoff atmosphere in Toronto. Whether or not he would be an official callup is a decision that is a long way off, but Quinn isn't ruling it out.