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Northeast: Despite spate of injuries, Colaiacovo stays positive

by James Murphy

Carlo Colaiacovo's, whose career has been plagued with injuries, is back on the injured reserve list again.
Every time Carlo Colaiacovo thinks he has put his injury-riddled past behind him, something new seems to pop up, and the Maple Leafs defenseman finds himself back on the injured reserve list -- again.

Despite only being 24, it has been a long, frustrating road for the 17th overall selection in the 2001 Entry Draft. Today, Colaiacovo is just itching to return from his latest setback, a knee injury last season that resulted in off-season surgery.

“It’s coming along, but it has been very frustrating,” Colaiacovo said. “I seem to get close to being ready, and at some points thought I was ready. But then something else sets me back. Right now, there’s absolutely no timetable because we want to be sure this time and not rush it.”

Thanks to a lengthy battle with concussions and his current knee injury, Colaiacovo has played in only 69 games over the past two seasons and 73 total NHL games. This latest struggle to return to the lineup has to be like a case of déjà vu for the Toronto native.

“I’ve definitely been through a lot physically and mentally so far, and of course it’s been hard,” Colaiacovo said. “It definitely gets to me at times, but that’s going to happen. At this point all I can do is put the past behind me and look forward to the future. I can’t sit here and feel sorry for myself and think; ‘What if?’ I just have to keep working hard to get back and hopefully I’ll be ready to play soon.”

To distract himself from the emotional toll of his injury battles, Colaiacovo has learned skating and rehabbing is the best cure. Lately he has been doing that under the close watch of power-skating instructor Dawn Braid, who helped Toronto center Kyle Wellwood recover from a sports hernia recently, and also helped save the career of former Leafs and current Blue Jackets center Michael Peca when he was battling back from a knee injury earlier this year.

“Dawn has really helped me a lot,” Colaiacovo said. “She’s a great power-skating instructor. Look what she did for Peca, helping him, maybe save his career, and then Wellwood. We’ve been focusing on pushing off and getting my skating back to where we need it to be. We want to try and get to the right comfort and strength, but like I said, we learned that you can’t rush that and so we’re taking the proper steps to get there.”

Heading into the last two seasons, the Maple Leafs were expecting big things from Colaiacovo. They reportedly received numerous trade inquiries for his services last June when Colaiacovo was facing restricted free agency, but Toronto decided to re-sign him to a three-year deal worth $3.85 million in June.

“I know it’s been hard on everyone and I really appreciate how patient they’ve been with me,” he said. “From (General Manager) John Ferguson Jr. to coach (Paul) Maurice and the training staff, they’ve been there for me and really helped me stay confident. I’m really grateful for that and I can’t thank them enough.”

After a stretch of one win in eight games last month, Ferguson, Maurice and the Leafs players were in the center of a media firestorm, but since have quieted their critics with three-straight wins, including Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Nashville. During the tumultuous times, Colaiacovo did his best to support his team as well as Maurice and Ferguson.

“I just let them know that the support is here from me and we’re going to deal with adversity playing in this city,” he said. “The media always blows things up, but we’re not going to let that change what we have in here and affect who we are.”

So for now Colaiacovo will continue to support his team, show up every morning for rehab, skate with Braid, and hopefully, soon, he’ll be helping his team on the ice, as well.

“I can’t wait to get back out there and help the guys,” he said. “All I want to do is play hockey.”

Shootout Summary -- The Senators lost two shootouts over the past two weeks and suddenly are in the midst of a seven-game winless streak, their longest in over a decade. Last Wednesday, Ottawa fell 3-2 to the Islanders in a shootout. Daniel Alfredsson scored the lone shootout goal for the Senators, while Bill Guerin and Mike Sillinger beat Ray Emery (20 saves in regulation), helping New York to the victory.

After two more losses, Ottawa headed south looking to halt their losing streak against the Lightning, but despite erasing a 3-1 third-period deficit, the Senators fell in the shootout once again, 4-3. Jason Spezza was the only Ottawa player to score in the shootout frame, and Emery (25 saves in regulation), was unable to stop Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal.

Montreal was the only other Northeast team to go to the shootout this past week, losing to the Predators, 5-4, after blowing a 4-1 lead in the third period. Despite making 40 saves in regulation, Cristobal Huet was unable to stop former Canadien Radek Bonk and Martin Erat in the shootout, and only Saku Koivu could score for Montreal.


Who’s Hot? -- The Bruins are the hottest team in the Northeast Division right now, going 7-3 in their last 10 games. One of the main reasons for the Bruins’ recent success has been center Marc Savard. Heading into tonight’s game at New Jersey, Savard has a 10-game point streak going. Savard has two goals and 15 assists in that span, with four helpers in his last three games.

Buffalo is 6-4 in its last 10 games, and one of the reasons has been the re-emergence of its offense. The Sabres are getting scoring from all areas. Center Tim Connolly and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek are prime examples of this with four points (one goal and three assists each), in their last two games.

Despite their seven-game winless streak, the big guns still are scoring for the Senators. Captain Daniel Alfredsson has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last three games, and Jason Spezza has amassed six points (one goal, five assists) in his last four.

A week ago the Maple Leafs were falling fast and jobs were on the line, but what a difference a week makes, as the Leafs have won three games in a row and quieted the Toronto media. Forward Nik Antropov continued his solid season with two goals and three assists in his last three games and Vesa Toskala finally has shown signs of being the goalie the Leafs were hoping for when they traded for him last June, going 3-0 with a 1.67 goals-against and .943 save percentage during this three-game stretch.

Black and Blue

Boston -- Patrice Bergeron remains on injured reserve with a concussion. Goaltender Manny Fernandez suffered another setback last week, but this time it was his back that kept him from returning to the lineup. General Manager Peter Chiarelli told the media Fernandez has a herniated disc and will be out for at least another two weeks. Defenseman Andrew Ference is day-to-day with a knee injury and now is joined by fellow defenseman Aaron Ward, who sprained his ankle in a 3-1 win over the Islanders Monday. Forward Shawn Thornton is out indefinitely with a broken bone in his left foot.


Buffalo -- The Sabres remain without defensemen Dmitri Kalinin (knee) and Teppo Numminen (heart surgery), who remain on injured reserve. They also are missing defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who is listed as day-to-day with a shoulder injury.

Montreal -- Goaltender Cristobal Huet is out indefinitely with a sore groin and Jaroslav Halak has been recalled from AHL Hamilton to fill-in for him.

Ottawa -- Forward Patrick Eaves is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and Anton Volchenkov is day-to-day with a broken finger.

Toronto -- Defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) remains on injured reserve, but fellow rearguard Pavel Kubina (right MCL), is expected to return soon. Forward Jiri Tlusty is day-to-day with an ankle injury.

The Week Ahead -- The Bruins make their first appearance at the new Prudential Center when they face the Devils tonight. The Senators will try to end their losing streak at Florida, and the Sabres begin a three-game trek out west against the defending Stanley Cup Champions in Anaheim.

Thursday, Montreal will try to end a three-game losing streak when they travel to Boston. Montreal is 3-0 against the Bruins this season. Toronto will face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and the Sabres face the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Senators are the only Northeast team in action Friday night as they play at Dallas.

Saturday, the Bruins play the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, the Canadiens host the Hurricanes and the Sabres are in San Jose.

Boston plays in Buffalo on Monday, while Toronto welcomes the Lightning.

The Canadiens host the Lightning Tuesday.

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