Counting down the time

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

A whirlwind day had nothing on Maple Leafs defenceman Andy Wozniewski.

Not long after saying goodbye to a Toronto Sun photographer at his Toronto condo yesterday, Wozniewski was able to put his head on his pillow and catch a three-hour nap before the biggest evening in his hockey career.

"I shut it right down," Wozniewski said. "I was more anxious than nervous. I was trying not to think about it too much."

From the sound of it, one might think the 25-year-old had done this kind of thing before, but that couldn't be further from the truth. After spending just 25 games last season with the St. John's Maple Leafs because of an injury, Wozniewski skated in his first NHL game last night against the Ottawa Senators.

In town for the big match were his mother, Miriam, and older brothers Todd and Marc. His father, Ben, watched on TV back at the family home in Buffalo Grove, Ill., a suburb 35 minutes north of Chicago.

Athleticism runs in the family. Marc played hockey at Bowling Green. Todd was an offensive tackle at Drake University.

"They are all pretty proud of me and it makes me feel really good," Wozniewski said. "It's good to have some of them here."

Though rookie defencemen in the Pat Quinn era often have had to bide their time before making the leap to the NHL, Wozniewski made it impossible in camp for the Leafs to cut him. He was on few radar screens when camp opened more than three weeks ago but his steady performances put him in good stead.

A big specimen at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Wozniewski spent much of the summer recovering from a labrum tear in his hip. Given the injury status of Ken Klee, Wade Belak and Karel Pilar, there's no telling what Wozniewski's future holds. But there's no other place he wants to be.

"It's unbelievable, the attention the players get here in Toronto," Wozniewski said. "It's unreal and nothing like I have ever seen before, anywhere. It's an amazing place."


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