Sundin in doubt

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:11 PM ET


 The Pat Quinn era is at a crossroads.

 But his Maple Leafs must choose the right path at the Air Canada Centre tonight without the one who has been Quinn's money player through all of his six years with the team.

 Despite Mats Sundin's first tentative strides at team practice yesterday, it seems a distant possibility that the captain will play Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators, hampered by an upper left leg muscle injury.

 It's a suspected pull or perhaps a small tear in the quad muscle or hip area, which might have been rooted in a Game 2 collision with the Sens' Vaclav Varada, and was aggravated when he was pulled down on a Game 4 breakaway. Judging by the therapy sessions he was taking before the playoffs, the leg or an undisclosed injury was already bothering him.

 Quinn, who could be subjected to a job review if he goes out in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year, was asked if a 60% or 80% effective Sundin was better than none at all tonight.

 "I don't think that's something I'd be particularly interested in," he said. "I would never put him at risk for possible further injury. But if he's at that 60 to 80% range, whatever the medical staff thinks is a reasonable risk to go along with, then you measure it."

 Sundin, with three of Toronto's 10 goals in the series despite missing two games, went out in advance of the Leafs' optional skate yesterday, monitored by therapist Chris Broadhurst and strength coach Matt Nichol.

 He did slow laps, stretched for a while on one knee, participated in some light drills and packed it in after half an hour.

 "I just wanted to get a feel," Sundin said. "I'll give it a good try (today) at the morning skate and see where we are."

 But Sundin's subdued manner suggested he won't be ready. He said it's a totally different injury than the sprained knee he suffered eight years ago in a series against the St. Louis Blues, when he played with a special brace. There will be no radical medical treatments, either.

 FALSE HOPE

 "I'm not even going to go there," Sundin said. "If I'm able to play the game, I'll go. There's nothing else to it.

 "I'm trying not to (give fans false hope). I didn't push it."

 Sundin, who missed the long 2002 playoffs with a bum hand, called it "heartbreaking" to watch Games 5 and 6 on TV.

 But playing through playoff pain is nothing new for the Leafs, who lost more than half their team for at least a game in the course of three rounds in 2002. Owen Nolan played through a hip injury last year and is out with a knee problem now.

 Still not 100% recovered are forward Alex Mogilny (hip surgery), Darcy Tucker (abdominal pull), Mikael Renberg (hamstring) and Ken Klee (shoulder).

 "Playoffs are tough and both teams are dealing with injuries," Klee said. "If you don't play banged up, you're not going to play."


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