'Canes have their own injury woes

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A brief 12-game stint with the Maple Leafs didn't make Glen Wesley enough of a Toronto expert to solve the rush-hour traffic problems on the Don Valley Parking Lot.

Let's face it: Even a room full of Rhodes Scholars couldn't figure out that mess.

But during his short time in blue and white in 2003, Wesley did manage to develop an appreciation for fellow defenceman Bryan McCabe, including those behind-the-scene aspects the average fan doesn't always see.

As a result, Wesley, 39, understands just how significant the loss of McCabe will be to the Leafs in the upcoming weeks.

"I've heard he's been playing his best hockey of the year in the past month," said Wesley, whose Carolina Hurricanes play host to the McCabe-less Leafs at the RBC Center tonight.

"He was portrayed as having his struggles earlier on but, at the same time, you always have to keep in mind that things are always more magnified in Toronto.

"Sometimes he doesn't get enough credit for his defensive game. He works hard and always shows up, and that's the most important thing."

Of course, don't expect Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette and his players to shed any tears for the Leafs concerning the loss of their 27-minutes-a-game defenceman. The 2006 Stanley Cup champions have had plenty of their own injury concerns to deal with since they skated around the RBC Center ice hoisting hockey's holy grail some 18 months ago.

"It does affect you," said Laviolette, explaining what the absence of a key cog from the lineup can do to a team.

"I speak from experience. We've been forced to play at times without guys like Erik Cole, Cory Stillman, (Frantisek) Kaberle. When you are faced with those things, it's an opportunity for someone else to step up."

STILLMAN SCARE

The Hurricanes received a scare Saturday when Stillman, the team's leading scorer, injured his left knee and ankle during a 6-5 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers. But Stillman participated in a full workout yesterday and "should be available" against the Leafs, Laviolette said.

In their only previous meeting this season, the Hurricanes thumped the Leafs 7-1 at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 9, a result Wesley feels was a bit misleading.

"It wasn't an easy game, not like the score indicated," Wesley said. "Remember, it is a lot easier to come back in this day and age. No lead is safe. Teams have come back from three-, four-goal deficits. So you don't take things for granted out there. There are no easy wins in this league.

"I'm sure (the Leafs) haven't forgotten what happened in Toronto."


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