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Yushkevich injury tough to take

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Joe Bowen

Holy Mackinaw! In his 20th season of calling the action of the blue and white, Joe Bowen is the definitive voice of the Maple Leafs. You can listen to Joe do the play-by-play on Leafs TV and radio broadcasts and now you can get his insights on the what's happening with the team.

TORONTO--Injuries are a part of the game. They are not supposed to be used as an excuse. You play through them and expect other members of the team to pick up the slack. That is the party line of any team in the dressing room when injuries crop up. But the truth of the matter is they have a dramatic impact on the individual, the team and on management.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were dealt a huge blow last week when Dmitry Yushkevich was diagnosed with a blood clot in the back of his knee. The hard-nosed defenceman has a reputation of playing through intense pain and hockey-related injuries. Earlier this year he took a deflected shot to the face and missed just a few shifts as he was stitched up and returned to the action, continuing to fearlessly drop in front of shots and tangle physically in the corners.

But this medical problem is much different. It was, in fact, life-threatening and but for the quick work of trainers Chris Broadhurst and Brent Smith along with the excellent medical staff led by Dr Ogilvie-Harris, Yushkevich could have been in serious trouble.

As it is the Leafs do not know when "Yuskie" will be back. The worst-case scenario is a long rehabilitation, meaning his return to the ice could not be until next season. Best-case scenario is early March.

For the Leafs warhorse it was a very bitter pill to swallow. His injury will not only impact the Leafs but the Russian Olympic team where Yushkevich was expected to anchor the defence.

In talking with Yushkevich he remains very optimistic. He talks of a special kind of treatment that might allow him to play while undergoing a variety of injections aimed at thinning his blood to rid himself of the clot. Yushkevich has quickly learned how to inject himself with his daily doses rather than make the trip into the hospital or Leafs training room each day.

The impact of the Yushkevich injury will be felt at all levels in the Leaf dressing room. Nathan Dempsey felt it early as he was summoned from St. John's to take up the roster spot. Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle felt the impact with a heavier workload on the ice in games missed by Yushkevich. Both McCabe and Kaberle moved from around 21 or 22 minutes of ice time, to better than 30 minutes.

General Manager Pat Quinn will be impacted after he returns from the Olympics. If Yushkevich can't make it back the Leafs may be forced into making a deal with a rival team for a veteran defenceman capable of logging his share of ice time. The immediate repercussion of that decision will be felt by a current member of the Leafs, prospects in the system or possibly a draft pick which will have to be used in the trade.

The Leafs training staff is second to none in the NHL. The relatively low number of man-games lost to injury by Toronto's players is a testament to the condition they have the athletes in.

After the Olympic break, the Leafs will welcome back Alexander Mogilny and Cory Cross to the lineup but Leaf fans are praying that Dmitry Yushkevich will be able to rejoin his mates in time for the playoffs.

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