Add Jason Allison to the lengthy list of Maple Leafs question marks that quickly are turning Pat Quinn's hair a lighter shade of grey -- if that's possible.
The Leafs coach arrived at the Air Canada Centre yesterday morning intent on inserting the healing Allison into the lineup for an exhibition game against the Buffalo Sabres last night.
But the best-laid plans of the veteran coach quickly were scuttled when Allison, obviously still battling groin/hip problems, told Quinn he was not ready to go.
While Quinn praised the Leafs training staff and its handling of the Allison injury, he wonders if a viable alternative would have been to keep the veteran forward off the ice for a determined period.
"Maybe we should have just shut him down for a while (earlier in camp),"Quinn said yesterday."That's easy to say now but it's something you think about."
Allison, who had not played a game since January 2003 because of a serious neck ailment, recently suffered a muscle injury, which kept him inactive for much of training camp. When he finally was good to go, he looked impressive during his pre-season debut, a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night.
But it's obvious the ailment, even if it's not serious, continues to nag him, stripping him of much-needed game time heading into the season opener against the Ottawa Senators in one week.
In fact, the lack of pre-season action from each of the Leafs' big three off-season acquisitions up front -- Allison, Eric Lindros and Jeff O'Neill -- has Quinn concerned. So, too, does the inactivity thus far of defenceman Ken Klee, who practised with his teammates for the first time yesterday after missing the majority of camp with a heel injury.
"Guys we wanted to give games to haven't had that chance,"Quinn said. "Ken should have had a lot of games because he hasn't played in two years, Eric's the same thing, Allison's the same thing, O'Neill's the same thing. Yet the injuries got in the way of going along with that."
O'Neill, nailed in the head by a Tomas Kaberle blast Saturday, sat out last night for precautionary reasons while Lindros continues to battle an oblique muscle injury.
"It's an area that's not typical of a hockey injury,"Quinn said of Lindros, who was unable to go full out during the team's morning skate. "It's above the waist so any turn seems to cause some pain. And yes, if it's torn or badly stretched, then it needs time to heal like any muscle."