Nieuwendyk backs out

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:35 PM ET


 Joe Nieuwendyk's ailing back apparently managed to accomplish what the Ottawa Senators could not -- stop the veteran Maple Leafs forward.

 Nieuwendyk returned to Toronto from the nation's capital yesterday after recurring back woes flared up again.

 While Maple Leafs officials threw their usual blanket of secrecy over Nieuwendyk's status, a source familiar with the situation last night confirmed the ailment.

 As for the official line, a Leafs spokesman said: "Joe is not in the lineup and he is not here."

 Thanks for the insight.

 The Leafs would not comment on reports that Nieuwendyk left to undergo an MRI after taking part in an off-ice workout at the Corel Centre in Ottawa yesterday morning.

 "It's a huge loss," forward Tom Fitzgerald said before Game 4 of the Leafs-Ottawa Senators series last night.

 ADVERSITY

 "But this team always has stepped up whenever it has faced adversity and we'll do it again.

 Nieuwendyk, 37, had two goals through the first three games of the Eastern Conference quarter-final, tied for the team lead with Gary Roberts. One of those was the game-winner in the Leafs' 2-0 win in Game 3.

 Nieuwendyk missed 22 games during the season, 17 because of back-related problems, most recently on March 6 against the Buffalo Sabres.

 Ottawa has not been a friendly place for Nieuwendyk.

 During Game 7 of the Eastern final between the Senators and Nieuwendyk's New Jersey Devils last spring, the centre played only three shifts before a back/hip injury forced him out of the playoffs. The Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup.


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