Advantage Mats

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:13 PM ET


 Mats Sundin has two major advantages in his struggle to return to the Maple Leafs lineup for tonight's Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators.

 His ability to heal quickly and play through pain, and two excellent trainers in head athletic therapist Chris Broadhurst and Brent Smith.

 AMAZING

 "Chris and Brent are two of the most amazing trainers in the business and I'm not just kissing their (butts)," said Dr. Robert Gordon, a top Toronto orthopedic surgeon. "If anyone can fix Mats up, those two guys can."

 Gordon said Sundin, who is suffering from a suspected quadriceps injury, proved he is a quick healer and has a high pain threshold during the 2002 playoffs when he returned to play after missing only 26 days with a fractured left wrist.

 However, Gordon also warned there are different degrees of quadriceps injuries.

 "If it's torn, obviously that is very bad," he said. "If it's partially torn, he might be back (for the playoffs) and if it is strained, he might be able to come back (tonight),"

 The Leafs won't reveal what Sundin's injury is, although sources have said it is a quad problem.

 If so, Gordon also said it is unfair to compare a quadriceps injury to other "lower body injuries," such as a broken ankle.

 "The quad is a very important muscle for any athlete, especially hockey players," Gordon said. "It gives you the strength to push off. And it is a very long muscle, starting at the pelvis and going all the way down shin bones."

 Gordon could not comment specifically on Sundin's injury, obviously, but he said that all bets for a Sundin return for this series are off if a bone around the quad is damaged.

 "If it's a bone, he definitely would not be back (for the series)" Gordon said. "It takes 3-6 weeks for bone to heal."

 And there there is the possibility of a deep bruise, which would cause further pain and weakness.

 Gordon said the Leafs will not play Sundin until he is absolutely ready, for two major reasons.

 One is to protect their investment from becoming even more seriously hurt.

 BABYCH LAWSUIT

 Then there is the precedent set by the David Babych lawsuit against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2002.

 A jury awarded the former NHL defenceman $1.37 million US after ruling the team prematurely ended his career when they pressured him into playing in a playoff series after he broke his foot. Babych told his coach he couldn't play, but said he was pressured to do so and got injections to numb the pain.

 "Teams are much more reluctant to freeze an injury now," Gordon said.


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