Toronto Star

Carlo sidelined yet again

Injury-prone Colaiacovo out ‘seven to 10 days’ with knee contusion after game with Flyers

- PAUL HUNTER SPORTS REPORTER

If a man teetering on crutches can ooze optimism, then Carlo Colaiacovo was doing just that yesterday. Striking an all-too familiar pose — vulnerable and defiant at the same — with those metal appendages straining under his armpits, Colaiacovo said he hoped to be back playing for the Maple Leafs in seven to 10 days, though he added the caveat that he would be out “at least” that long. More importantl­y, given his medical history, he promised to return to the ice with no mental scars to match the physical ones. “I play hard and I just deal with the consequenc­es,” said the 24-yearold while his teammates practised yesterday. “I’m not going to change anything about the way I play or my style of game. I’m just going to continue to play hard. The one thing I try to make people understand is that I don’t go out there with the intent to get hurt. I go out there with the intent to play hard and to play hockey.” Too often, however, Colaiacovo’s brief career has been more about hard luck than hard play. The latest setback for the defenceman came on Saturday night when he banged right knees with Flyers’ forward Jim Dowd. It was the same knee that Colaiacovo had surgically repaired at the start of the summer and it took him eight months of rehab to get back into the lineup. That comeback lasted five games, cut short by what he was calling a knee contusion. “Considerin­g everything I’ve been through with the same knee, the trauma effect, I’m just glad it wasn’t anything worse,” he said. While Colaiacovo’s plight is touching on a human level, in the big picture it is simply part of a growing problem for the Maple Leafs. The injuries are mounting. The team flew off to California yesterday afternoon and will play a three-game swing there without several key components. Bryan McCabe is out with a broken hand, making Colaiacovo’s absence more significan­t since he’d been filling some of the veteran’s big minutes. Struggling Andy Wozniewski will draw back in to the lineup in Colaiacovo’s absence while Anton Stralman’s ice time will increase. Toronto will also be without forward Mark Bell, who is awaiting surgery on a broken orbital bone and the team is waiting on No. 1 goaltender Vesa Toskala to bounce back from a groin injury that has kept him out since Christmas. Toskala practised hard yesterday and, though he won’t confirm it as a possibilit­y, there is some optimism that he might be able to play in the Leafs’ next game on Wednesday at Anaheim. “I thought he got across the net really well today. He looked comfortabl­e. If he comes back (for tomorrow’s practice) and feels that he can go full, then we’ll entertain the idea of him playing Wednesday,” said coach Paul Maurice. “If he again feels he needs more time, then we’ll again take it day by day unfortunat­ely.” More good news for Toronto is that Jason Blake, who was at the wrong end of a cheap-shot punch to the eye by Philadelph­ia’s Steve Downie on Saturday, did not suffer any damage beyond some ugly swelling. He did not practice yesterday but should play against Anaheim. “There was nothing broken around the eye, which was a positive. He couldn’t really see out of it today but the good Lord gave him two so we figure Wednesday he should be fine,” said the coach. The Leafs have lost eight of their last 10 games and sit 13th in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the eighth-place Flyers. “We need to win games, no question, but more importantl­y,” said Maurice, “you’ve got to keep that hope and that fire in the room that things will get better.”

Yesterday’s action,

 ?? RENE JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR ?? Carlo Colaiacovo hobbles out of the Lakeshore Lions Arena with the help of his crutches yesterday.
RENE JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR Carlo Colaiacovo hobbles out of the Lakeshore Lions Arena with the help of his crutches yesterday.

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