Steen not quite ready

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Rookie winger Alex Steen is the closest to returning of four injured Leafs, but there are no guarantees he'll be back tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I'm happy I'm getting closer and not going the other way and getting worse," Steen said yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena as he flexed his dislocated thumb. "It's hard to be patient, but you have to be with this kind of thing."

Steen, who had 20 points in 32 games before getting hurt, already missed the Leafs first encounter against Sidney Crosby and would be pitted against another top freshman later this week when the Leafs take on the Calgary Flames and defenceman Dion Phaneuf. Later this month, the Leafs cross paths with the Colorado Avalanche, which has forward Marek Svatos, third in rookie scoring behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Crosby .

"To be honest I just don't care (about those matchups), it's more you guys who focus on that sort of thing," Steen said. "I just want to get back and do my part for this team."

Left winger Nik Antropov (sore knee) skated hard at the optional practice, but is no closer to a return date. Centre Eric Lindros (torn wrist ligament) remains on the injured reserve list and centre Jason Allison (fractured finger) is only at the stage where he can grip a hockey stick, not use it effectively. Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo (sore wrist) likely won't be ready until the Western Canada trip later this week.

All four did not join a group of a bout 10 Leafs for an optional skate/pickup game at Lakeshore. Filling out the teams were Tie Domi's young son Max and Ed Belfour's teenage son Dayn.

MILE HIGH PARTY

The Leafs celebrated New Year's somewhere above the Great Lakes on the way home after beating the New Jersey Devils 6-2 on Saturday night.

"The pilot counted it down to midnight," captain Mats Sundin said. "We had a glass of champagne and held a little toast. It was pretty neat."

Sundin brought his 3 1/2-year-old Jack Russell terrier Nelly to practice yesterday.

"She's from Whitby," Sundin said with a nod to rugged ex-Leaf Gary Roberts. "Tough as nails."


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