Time's ticking on Leafs

Leafs captain Mats Sundin speaks with the media after practice yesterday. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

Leafs captain Mats Sundin speaks with the media after practice yesterday. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

As the full Maple Leafs' 2007-08 roster met for the first time yesterday, story lines old and new rattled around Lakeshore Lions Arena like so many errant pucks.

Can goalies Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft get along? Where will Jason Blake play? Will beleaguered Bryan McCabe invest in ear plugs for home games and will Mats Sundin ever pass Darryl Sittler?

But one over-riding issue took precedence as the club prepared for Thursday's medicals. Is this week's training camp the last for the Leafs as currently constituted?

"You miss the playoffs two years in a row and everyone will be looked at," captain Sundin said. "We need to get off to a good start -- as a team. We have a lot of games at home (10 of their first 14). This is a great time of year and now we have a chance to do something good."

Sundin is 36 and on a tenuous one-year, $5.5 million US contract, which either leads him to a career-ending deal with a competitive Leafs team in 2008 or out the door to a Cup contender or retirement in Sweden. But he's not the only one feeling the encroachment of father time and its effect on the Leafs' Stanley Cup chances.

"The window is closing," McCabe said, noting he is now 32 and been in the NHL almost 12 years. "I want to get it done. Obviously, we're not getting any younger and neither is Mats. It's a short opportunity."

Both McCabe and Sundin pronounced themselves healthy and rarin' to go yesterday, after the two offensive cogs endured rough patches in 2006-07. McCabe's $5.75 million salary and 23 even-strength points drew the fans' ire, despite 57 overall points.

"I guess I'm off the hook because of all the (defencemen who cashed in last summer)," McCabe said with a laugh. "But there's a lot of pressure on a guy with a big salary. (The criticism) gets in your head a bit, but that's water under the bridge."

Sundin was on the defensive when he departed town in April, tormented by questions on the club's playoff failures, his leadership, a costly late-season goal slump and ultimately, his future as a Leaf.

But he looked extremely relaxed yesterday, after a summer of touring and golfing in France, Italy and the Mediterranean coast.

100% HEALTHY

He's at his desired playing weight of 230 pounds after three weeks of skating in Sweden and is 100% healthy for the moment after hip problems gave him and the team and bad scare.

He hopes this is the year he gets back into 80 or 90-point country, still needing two goals to pass Sittler for first place in in franchise history with 390 and eight points to beat Sittler's record of 917. The sooner the better for the goal mark after an inexplicable 12-game disappearance of the red light.

"I don't know what happened," Sundin said. "I was getting my points (15 assists in his final 14 games)."

Toskala and his would-be backup Raycroft met Friday during a separate skate, a reunion of sorts as both played in Finland during the lockout.

"We don't want this to become a competition off the ice," Toskala said of the looming exhibition game battle. "I was told before that he's a good guy and a professional player. Now I'll get to know him."


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