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Toronto overcomes odds in regular season -- Part II

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley


Injuries have been the team's theme since February. Losing Mogilny, Dmitry Yushkevich, Curtis Joseph and Gary Roberts for extended periods of time hasn't hurt the club as much as most thought. Combine that with nagging problems to Mikael Renberg, Shayne Corson, Robert Reichel, Jyrki Lumme, Cory Cross, Garry Valk and Toronto has endured an epidemic.

"Everybody keeps talking about the injuries but guys in the room really don't talk about it. It's just excuses. You can't do anything about it. The other guys aren't going to play any easier against you. Whoever's in the lineup just has to do his job," said Lumme, who has been steady since being picked up in November from Dallas.

Most of Toronto's wounded will be ready to open the playoffs with Roberts, Yushkevich and Reichel still being question marks. If totally healthy will the new bodies cause problems for the team?

"Those guys have been here for so long. They know the system, they know what's going on and all the guys know them, if anything it will be great to have them back," Lumme said.

"As a coach, you always wonder how your team is going to do under adverse conditions and in an adverse situations, our guys responded very, very well," said Quinn. "We would have liked to have finished in first place, but we didn't get it, so it doesn't matter now."

Toronto has filled the holes in those adverse situations. Corey Schwab played admirably in Joseph's absence down the stretch. After getting his rhythm, the training camp addition gave Toronto what it needed to get over the 40-win hump. Karel Pilar and Paul Healey have opened eyes with their play after spending most of the year on the farm.

"I think everybody stepped up. Excuses are for losers. We don't want to have excuses," Domi said.

"The season has been pretty good with some ups and downs like there normally are," Renberg said. "We feel really good about ourselves."

The bottom line for the Leafs season has been a 10-point improvement in the standings and their second 100-point year in the last two while enduring injuries to key guys.

"We're a good team when we do everything right, when we pay the price and pay attention to details," Lumme said.

As far as the playoffs go, the Leafs don't care who they face.

"Whoever we face, we have a good feeling going into the playoffs this year," Sundin said. "Last year, we ended the season on a negative note and when the playoffs started, we were able to flip the switch and bring out our 'A' game. This year will be a little different, we're playing our 'A' game right now."
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