Lesser-lights simply have to shine

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:05 PM ET


 Mats Sundin likes to say that it doesn't matter who isn't playing for the Maple Leafs, all that counts is who is.

 Clarke Wilm. Chad Kilger. Matt Stajan. Wade Belak. Alexei Ponikarovsky. Nik Antropov.

 Oh, there is trouble in River City.

 When he disclosed that Joe Nieuwendyk, the owner of five of the Leafs' 15 post-season goals, would not play tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers, Leafs coach Pat Quinn signalled another dramatic downturn in the club's fortunes.

 Tonight, Quinn will send out the C team.

 No Nieuwendyk, lost at least for one game to his chronically bad back. Owen Nolan's wrecked right knee will keep him out indefinitely. Mikael Renberg seems certain to miss another game and probably more with the ubiquitous lower body woes.

 OUTSIDE CHANCE

 There remains the barest of outside chances captain Mats Sundin could play.

 "It felt a lot better than the morning of the skate for Game 7 in Ottawa," Sundin said. "It's certainly moving in the right direction."

 "If all (the treatments) work and I'm skating well, I'm going to play," he said.

 Clearly, Quinn is banking on Sundin later in the series.

 "It has been pretty consistent, we hope to have him mid-series and that's still a possibility," Quinn said. "He did pretty well (yesterday)."

 "We've just got to keep things going until we can get more guys back," Leafs forward Darcy Tucker said.

 Good luck.

 The Leafs need to keep things going, all right. Keep going until they get Sundin, keep going until Nieuwendyk is ready. Never mind Nolan. He's probably another round away. Keep going until Alex Mogilny, who came back early from a major hip injury, and Tucker, who managed his first practice since coming back in time for Game 2 tonight, can find their legs.

 The Leafs would have no business winning tonight's game without Sundin. Their best forwards right now are Tie Domi and Robert Reichel, and while their play has been exemplary, they are not go-to guys.

 Ponikarovsky and Antropov have been invisible and Nieuwendyk's absence seems destined to deepen their funk.

 The Leafs have only three dependable defencemen, Brian Leetch, Bryan McCabe and Ken Klee.

 HORROR SHOW

 Tom Kaberle is a horror show and Quinn can't use his pairing of Aki Berg and Bryan Marchment for more than the bare minimum.

 The Leafs seem to have only two major assets. Ed Belfour and the schedule-maker, who built a pair of two-day breaks into the series.

 The Leafs need Mogilny to skate through his injuries, as he signalled he might be ready to do in Game 1.

 They need Ron Francis to lose 10 years off the calendar and they need Stajan to find them.

 They need Kaberle to wake up. Same with Ponikarovsky and Antropov.

 They need a miracle, not from the sick bay, but from the guys who are playing and they need it right now. Otherwise, there will be no series for the injured guys to come back to.


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