Pilar won't play this season

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Karel Pilar will not be returning to the Maple Leafs until 2006-07 at the earliest, but the team is most concerned about his long-term health.

The 27-year-old Czech defenceman, whose career has been interrupted by a heart problem known as viral myopathy, is unable to continue his recovery program at this time, a Sportsnet report said. The National Hockey League deadline for teams to sign Group 2 free agents for 2005-06 passed on Thursday and Pilar and Leafs general manager John Ferguson have decided to wait until his health has improved before discussing his future.

It was hoped Pilar might be ready as early as the New Year, with a one-year, one-way contract.

But his condition, a virus in the heart that hardens the muscle and hampers blood flow, has returned.

"I wanted to play, but my body still isn't working the way it's supposed to," Pilar told Sportsnet. "I didn't know when I could be ready and I didn't want to rush my return."

Pilar hopes that rest will allow him to try playing in Europe later this season.

"The bottom line, the only thing that matters, is Karel's health," Ferguson said. "We'll give him all the time he needs."

SUPER SWEDE

When pioneer Swede Borje Salming first broke in with the Maple Leafs in 1973, to a rude welcome from many resentful NHLers, the interested observers included Atlanta Flames defenceman Pat Quinn.

"My type of game wasn't having to prove myself against Swedes, but a bunch of guys might have had to prove it," Quinn, now the Leafs coach, said. "He showed he was a tough guy off the bat. There was no doubting him. He was quickly accepted and proved he was a great player. You're not great unless you prove you are willing to be involved in the physical side of the game and he certainly was."

Salming's Leafs point total of 768, third in club annals, was equalled Thursday by Mats Sundin.

LOOSE LEAFS

Injured defenceman Staffan Kronwall (knee) will see a doctor tomorrow or Monday and expects clearance to resume skating ... Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle are at identical game-average ice times of 28:38.


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