Colaiacovo learning how to deal with ups, downs

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

If Carlo Colaiacovo is going to be an everyday NHL player -- and he appears to have a solid hold on such a possibility -- he knows he will have to take the good with the bad.

After a 4-3 loss by the Maple Leafs to the Phoenix Coyotes last night, the rookie defenceman didn't have a choice.

Colaiacovo scored a goal, had an assist and another thundering open-ice body check but also was out of position on the game-winning goal by Fredrik Sjostrom at 4:15 of the third period.

"I am still frustrated by it," Colaiacovo said in a deathly quiet dressing room. "I am playing my man, he takes a chop at me and it ends up helping to create the winning goal."

Sjostrom poked a rebound into an open net behind Ed Belfour just as Colaiacovo arrived in the crease area.

Little else went wrong for Colaiacovo for much of the evening. He was paired with Tomas Kaberle in place of Bryan McCabe and wound up with 22 minutes, 17 seconds of ice time, by far the most he has had in 17 games this season. Both of Colaiacovo's points came during Leafs power plays and his goal was pretty as he raced in from the point and redirected a pass from Mats Sundin over Curtis Joseph.

Later, Colaiacovo, who has laid out Todd Bertuzzi and Bill Guerin with big hits this season, steamrolled Mike Comrie.

"I am feeling good about my game," Colaiacovo said. "(Kaberle and I) read off each other well and supported each other. We had good puck movement, but the bottom line is we are disappointed we did not come out with a win."

Colaiacovo could get a greater chance to play with Kaberle this week, as the Leafs open a four-game trip in Colorado against the Avalanche on Tuesday. McCabe, who is nursing a groin injury, might not make the initial part of the trip to Colorado and Minnesota.

"It builds (confidence)tremendously, especially when you get to play in those situations that you don't find yourself accustomed to at this level," Colaiacovo, 22, said. "Bryan and Tomas have been the horses the whole way. With Bryan out, I have been asked to step in and I'm really looking forward to taking full advantage of the opportunity."


Photos