February 20, 2004
The NHL trade deadline is a little less than three weeks away but the Toronto Maple Leafs have already acquired an elite player.
Out since undergoing hip surgery on November 26, Mogilny returned to the Leafs just at the right time. General manager John Ferguson is very happy to have Mogilny back in the lineup "because we don't need to give up anyone to get him."
Mogilny got back into action on February 19 in a 2-1 win at Carolina. He played 13 minutes and five seconds, had his best scoring chance on his first shift, but was robbed by Kevin Weekes. Most notably he, and his hip that kept him on the shelf, withstood a couple of tough hits.
Mogilny termed his first game back "difficult" but was delighted with the victory, crediting the goaltending of Mikael Tellqvist as the reason for the two points.
| The Leafs are surely happy to have Almo back in the fold. |
(D. Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)
"It wasn't too bad," Mogilny told the Toronto Star. "A couple of times I got pushed around, but it held up pretty nicely.
"Physically I was feeling great. It's not really rust, It's just that when you've been off for so long, you're coming back and starting all over again. The game is so fast."
It wasn't easy for the slick Russian to miss almost three months of action but his return should help the Leafs, especially with the recent injury to Gary Roberts and considering the battle for positions in the Eastern Conference. Mogilny always downplays his importance to the team but doesn't hide the fact he's pleased to get back on the ice, playing a game he says he missed.
"I'm very excited," he said before the game at Carolina. "I just hope (the hip) is healed enough and that I don't make many mistakes."
While head coach Pat Quinn is expected to ease him back, eventually it's anticipated Mogilny will patrol the right wing on a line with Mats Sundin and Roberts. That's a unit that can score off the rush or in transition, something Quinn hopes materializes and peaks at playoff time once Mogilny has had plenty of game action.
"It's terrific," Quinn said of Mogilny's return. "After three long months, he's champing (to play again), and has been cleared properly and everything seems to be in good order. We'll be pleased to fit him in some place."
Mogilny played 15 games before undergoing the surgery, picking up five goals, seven assists and 12 points. He would have become the first Russian born player to register 1,000 career points, but Anaheim Mighty Ducks forward Sergei Fedorov took that honour last weekend.
Mogilny's career total sits at 989 making it possible to still accomplish the milestone this season.
After Fedorov's accomplishment he dedicated the feat to Mogilny, acknowledging the Leafs' forward would have reached the milestone first if not for the hip injury. Mogilny was honoured when told of Fedorov's comments.
"That was really nice of him to say," Mogilny said. "It shows what a class guy he is." It's obvious that Fedorov has the same respect for Mogilny that the rest of the Leafs and the league has for him.
To expect Mogilny to be at the top of his game right away is just not fair. No player can miss almost three months of action and return and have an immediate impact. The Leafs have 21 more games left in the regular season, which gives him plenty of time to get ready for the playoffs when he will be most valuable to the team.
When he's on, Mogilny is one of the NHL's game breakers, a combination of skill, speed and excitement.
He has already said that he doesn't plan on playing in back-to-back games. He'll use the rest of the time wisely to be prepared for the playoffs.
A Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey in 2000, Mogilny is motivated to win another. " news