Allison clears air

MIKE ZEISBERGER --

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

At some point down the road, all these inquiries about his neck are going to become, well, a pain in the neck.

So Jason Allison wants to set the record straight for those who feel he and fellow newcomer Eric Lindros are nothing more than Brittle Buds.

"I just think that, as far as Eric and I are concerned, there obviously are questions from both the media and fans concerning health issues,"Allison said. "Well, there are none for me and I don't think Eric has any, either."

Allison, in fact, appears to be getting stronger each time he steps on to the ice to participate in an informal game of shinny with fellow NHLers at a local Toronto arena.

To date, he has shown a keen passing touch and appears to be regaining zip in his skating legs. More importantly, he is becoming re-accustomed to the intense speed of the sport, a gradual learning process for a guy who has not participated in an NHL game in 21/2 years because of complications stemming from a series of whiplash ailments.

Yet his improvement has not silenced the naysayers from voicing their concerns over the additions of Allison and Lindros, a pair of players who have absorbed more than their share of injuries.

These are the same critics who continue to bemoan the departures of Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alexander Mogilny, feeling their losses have left the Leafs in a downward spiral.

How quickly they forget.

While Allison and Lindros continue to battle accusations of being "damaged goods," the four marquee forwards who no longer will be on the scene this coming season -- Nieuwendyk, Roberts, Mogilny and Owen Nolan -- spent their fair share of time in the trainers' room back in 2003-04, the final season before the lockout.

Only 19 times in the 82-game schedule did all four appear in the lineup together. Those are hardly the type of durability numbers that will get you mentioned in the same breath as Cal Ripken.

"Obviously a huge concern about this year's team will be health," Allison said. "Well, the best season I ever had came after I had missed eight months with a wrist injury."

The ailment caused Allison to play just 37 games for the Boston Bruins in 1999-2000.

One season later, he led the team in scoring with 95 points.

"I feel great right now," said Allison, who has not played an NHL game since Jan. 25, 2003, when his Los Angeles Kings met the New Jersey Devils. "I'm just aware of (body) maintenance, making sure everything's loose.

LIKE A KID AGAIN

"After all this time off, I'm like a kid champing at the bit to get going again."

If Allison's health and durability are as fine as he claims, it could translate into a nice payday for the Toronto native.

While his base salary is $1.5 million US, he could earn another $3 million in incentives if he doesn't break down.


Videos

Photos