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Pilar in the mix; Yushkie, Cujo improving

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley


TORONTO - Pat Quinn didn't make a move at the trade deadline but that doesn't mean the Toronto Maple Leafs won't be adding bodies before the playoffs.

One player that seems to be carving out a roster spot is young defenceman Karel Pilar.

The 24-year-old, Czech Republic native was the third star in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders. He has been passing the puck effectively out of the defensive zone and adding an offensive flare to the power play.

"He showed us during this stretch that he's making some big steps," Quinn told the Toronto Star. "He's still here on emergency recall (replacing flu-ridden Aki Berg), but we'll have to clarify that. We're pretty much assured that until Yushkie gets cleared up that he (Pilar) will be around."

Pilar was the team's benchmark at the deadline. In order for the Leafs to add another defenceman they had to be a step above Pilar. A couple players fit that bill but a deal couldn't be worked out. Quinn likes Pilar's physical play, something he's learned in the American Hockey League.

"He has good size," Quinn. "The Europeans, the younger ones, have learned to appreciate the beauty of contact. I don't want to build a mountain out of a molehill. He's a kid we liked in camp who had some holes in his game. With all his pimples, we decided he would be the callup."

GOOD NEWS

The wait is still on for the two remaining injured Leafs, Dmitry Yushkevich and Curtis Joseph.

Yushkevich still has a chance to return from his blood clot and a decision on that will reportedly be made next Tuesday. The rugged defenceman will sit down with his agent Mark Gandler, management and team doctors to decide if he can adjust his blood-thinning medication so that he can play contact sports.

"I've made my mind up 80 per cent, I'm willing to take the risk if the team is," Yushkevich said. "I'm looking at that meeting with big hope, because if things weren't going well for me, we wouldn't need to have a meeting at all."

An ultrasound exam revealed that the clot was shrinking and that blood had started to flow through the effected area, just below his knee.

Joseph has made progress with the broken bone in his hand as well.

The hard cast has been removed but he will continue to wear a splint. Doctors will tell you that it takes four weeks for a broken bone to completely heal and that anniversary for Cujo would be March 26. The key after that is getting back the range of motion.

"(Trainers and equipment men) are going to play around with my glove and see what can be done," Joseph said. "Maybe I can play with three fingers spliced together (to keep the middle finger stable)."

Joseph still hasn't been cleared to practice. A fall still could re-injure the hand.

THIS AND THAT

  • Mikael Renberg was held to just over six minutes of ice time on Tuesday night but it wasn't because of his hamstring problem. Numerous power plays and penalty kills kept the Renberg's play to a minimum Quinn said on Wednesday.

  • Wade Belak will likely play the wing on Thursday against the Capitals if Aki Berg has recovered from the flu.

  • Newly-acquired Tom Barrasso could start against Washington. Quinn said on Saturday he will start some time this week.
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