Maple Leafs Watch

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:31 PM ET


 NIEUWENDYK STAYS UPBEAT

 Joe Nieuwendyk tested his sore back at practice yesterday, but it looks like Toronto's top playoff goal man won't return until Game 4 at the earliest.

 "In the big picture, we'll win some games and I'll be back," an upbeat Nieuwendyk said yesterday before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-final.

 Leafs coach Pat Quinn echoed Nieuwendyk's optimism.

 "It's nice to see him trying, that's the first sign of recovery," he said of Nieuwendyk, who has five playoff goals. "He's getting closer."

 By now, the Leafs are immune to bad news on the injury front.

 "We're missing guys such as Nieuwendyk, (Mikael) Renberg and (Owen) Nolan, real quality guys, who've had a really big impact on our team," winger Gary Roberts said. "But we can't worry about that. We just worry about the guys who are in our lineup now."

 HOME IMPROVEMENTS

 Toronto is looking for a better result on Air Canada Centre ice during the next few days and not just because of friendly fans. From the wacky Wachovia to the Bay St. Bounce, there are some distinct characteristics to the home arenas of both the Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers.

 The glass and boards at the Wachovia Center can be tricky, as Ed Belfour and a few teammates found on dump-ins that deflected back into the middle of the ice. Neither rink has great ice at this time of year, especially after Wachovia played host to an arena football game the night before Game 2.

 "Maybe the puck will take some bad bounces when you ring it around the boards, but you can't assume that's going to happen," Roberts said.

 Quinn has seen crazy hops in both places, but says you can't build that into team strategy.

 "When it comes down to it, it's still a 200-by-85 (foot) rink for both teams," he said. "You can't shoot the puck in and think you'll hit a little piece of board that sticks out."

 LEAFS INJURIES

 JOE NIEUWENDYK

 Back, day to day

 MIKAEL RENBERG

 Hamstring, day to day

 OWEN NOLAN

 Right knee, out indefinitely


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