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McCabe Eying Late-Week Return

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
: Maurice | Steen | McCabe | Earl | Antropov | White

Either in regulation or extra time, the Maple Leafs have lost 14 of the 21 games they have played since Bryan McCabe went down with a broken left wrist.

That, more than anything else, was enough reason to celebrate the impending end of his stint as a househusband.

McCabe undertook his first full workout with the Maple Leafs on Monday since breaking his left wrist, December 15. He figures to be back in the lineup as soon as Thursday in Montreal.

"For sure by the weekend, but maybe earlier, who knows?" said McCabe. The Leafs play Florida at home Tuesday and then visit the Canadiens Thursday. Saturday they play a matinee in Detroit.

The 32-year-old defenceman said it was time well-spent.

“I was with my daughter Stevie,” McCabe said. “Daddy days for seven weeks. I’m up for Father of the Year.”

The Leafs and their fans would rather he garner a few more votes for his work on the blue line. It has been a rough year for McCabe who endured the scores of catcalls when he shot the puck into his own net in Buffalo. The wrist injury came after he fell awkwardly against the boards after being hit by the Canadiens’ Andrei Kostitsyn.

Fans point to a hefty contract and dropping offensive numbers, he had four goals and 12 points in 27 games when he was hurt.

Easy to overlook is a player retooling his game, soaking up major minutes (he was logging 26:22 a night easily the most on the club) and making himself a go-to player.

Laugh if you need to at the shot into his own net and his sometimes combustible passes. The majority of the time, McCabe advances the puck and chooses the right man to defend. Should he regain his offensive touch – it’s hard to know which came first, the Leafs dismal power play or the move by defenders to prevent McCabe’s shot - he would find himself, once again, a top-tier defenceman.

But McCabe comes back to a team being measured for alteration by interim GM Cliff Fletcher. McCabe, who had plenty of time to ponder the club’s situation including his own, insists he didn’t.

“I don’t think about that stuff,” he said. “That’s stuff I don’t control. I signed here to play here.”

Like several Leafs, he has a no-trade clause but McCabe insists Fletcher hasn’t talked to him about waiving it.

“I have that clause but no one has ever spoken to me about doing anything about it.  I’m not too worried about it.”

What did trouble him was seeing the implosion of the team, the painful late losses and the immolation of what was once a hopeful campaign.

“It’s tough, feeling helpless, not being able to contribute. I missed a few road trips and felt ostracized. I just stopped watching.”

“Nobody likes to do that. You always want to be out there. Win or lose, at least you are out there competing.”

Alex Steen made his first appearance at practice after suffering a separated shoulder. He is probably a week or so away after incurring the injury Jan. 29 . Forward Nik Antropov serves the second game of his three-game suspension against Florida.

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