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Svoboda Looking to Return After Illness

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO - (CP) -- For the third time in a year, a Maple Leafs defenceman has been diagnosed with a rare illness.

Petr Svoboda.
Graig Abel Photography
Petr Svoboda, whose return to the Czech Republic midway through last season was based on poor performance, was in fact suffering from a wonky thymus gland. The gland, located in the upper chest above the heart, regulates such functions as body temperature and the immune system.

In addition to feeling worn down last season with the St. John's Maple Leafs, Svoboda felt the need to be swathed in heavy blankets at times because of low body temperature.

"The doctor in the Czech Republic told (Leafs physician) Michael Clarfield that maybe 1,600 people in that whole country have that condition," said Mike Penny, Toronto's director of player personnel. "The unfortunate part is that we're told it takes months to recover. That's three weird ones in a row for our defencemen."

Penny was referring to the blood clot that sidelined Dmitry Yushkevich for the second half of the 2001-02 season and Karel Pilar's viral infection this past winter, originally thought to be sinus woes, but actually was a problem that weakened his heart. In 2000-01, Swiss centre Luca Cereda was discovered to have a heart defect.

Svoboda, a second-round draft choice in 1998, played 18 games for the Leafs in 2000-01. Now that the nature of his condition has been discovered, he could re-enter the depth chart at some point next season.
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