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Roman Gladiator

by Paul Hendrick / Toronto Maple Leafs


The Leafs spent Tuesday in Anaheim recuperating from a physical 2-0 loss to Los Angeles the night before. Eight players participated in an optional skate while the majority worked out in a dry land session at the Honda Centre.

The latter group included Roman Polak who spoke with the media for the first time since taking a puck to the face on January 7 against Washington.

The injury required 15 stitches externally and another seven internally to close the wound. It also cost him a few teeth. Polak returned to play that same night regardless and hasn't missed a beat, but it's an experience he'd rather not go through again.

"Awful," said Polak. "It was so painful and after the adrenaline came down it started throbbing. It was just a bad feeling and I didn't feel very good at the end of the game."

Polak tried a cage and a visor to protect the injury after that but just couldn't get used to either and decided to proceed without any protection.

The 235 pound defenceman hasn't lost any weight following the mishap but his diet has been altered since then.

"I've been all fish - no steak or pizza, nothing like that - but I'm still eating my ice cream, you know."

The Maple Leafs leader in hits played 19 minutes against the Kings on Monday and his four hits were second only to Stephane Robidas and Daniel Winnik who had five apiece.

He's as tough as they come and that toughness is complemented by a sense of humour that defies his take no prisoner approach on the ice.

"When I got hurt I looked in the mirror right after it happened," said Polak. "I always like to see what happened before they stitched it up and see how bad it looks."

"I really thought it was going to be worse, but I saw I could still do my modelling career."

Polak has brought a much needed dimension of grit alongside Winnik.

Winnik and Polak had previously played their entire careers in the Western Conference for hard-nosed coaches like Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett.

Winnik skated a season high 20:30 against Los Angeles and has made his new linemates - Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel - better as a result.

Head coach Peter Horachek appreciates the defensive acumen that Winnik can bring to high octane offensive players like Kessel and Bozak.

"He gets in quick, he can maintain possession of the puck and he'll battle in front of the net," said Horachek. "When he's doing that we get other people doing the same thing. There's balance and he certainly helps playing with those guys."

Leo Komarov continues to get treatment for a shoulder stinger sustained in the Kings game. Horachek expects him to be available for Wednesday's contest in Anaheim.

The Leafs have won three straight games at the Honda Center and have not lost there since January 9th, 2008.

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