Ponikarovsky riding high

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

For his public image, Alex Ponikarovsky might need to put some goals and assists after his name, but he doesn't have to do that to impress his coach.

"His value to us this year shouldn't be measured in statistics because he has been doing things that allow him to be a valuable player," said Pat Quinn yesterday, the morning after Ponikarovsky had been a major contributor to Toronto's win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Ponikarovsky scored a shorthanded goal on a nifty give-and-go with Matt Stajan and then eventually beat Sabres goalie Martin Biron with the decisive shootout goal to snap a 3-3 tie.

"He's responsible defensively, plays strong and puts a lot of pressure on the other team," Quinn said. "He hasn't got a lot of points but in practice he has been showing that confidence in himself is coming."

The soft-spoken Russian doesn't feel he's doing anything very different from the way he has played in the past, though he admits the extra ice time he's getting has helped his self-esteem.

"Confidence is important for anybody," he said. "Whether it's me or anybody else. Even if you've been in the league for 10 years, you can lose your confidence in one game and it's hard to get it back."

COLAIACOVO NOT READY

Carlo Colaiacovo was hoping his jammed wrist would come around quickly but that doesn't seem to be the case. He's among five Leafs who won't be in the lineup tonight against the New Jersey Devils.

"It didn't settle down so it's probably more severe than we first thought," Quinn said. "So he'll stay back with the other injured guys.

Alexander Steen (sprained thumb) probably will be the first injured player to return, perhaps as early as Monday against Pittsburgh. Winger Nik Antropov skated for the first time since injuring knee ligaments. Neither Eric Lindros (wrist) or Jason Allison (finger) has a timetable for a return.

Despite those absences, the Leafs have a four-game win streak, matching their longest of the year.

"Hopefully we can keep it going," Darcy Tucker said. "We've been pretty good in those one goal games lately and we're going to need to get better as the season goes along."


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