A 'big relief' for Leafs' Big E

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

The banged-up Maple Leafs could have used a few wheelchairs to roll their walking wounded out on to the ice for their annual team photo at the Air Canada Centre yesterday.

But in a month-long period in which players have been dropping as fast as General Motors stock, a concerned Eric Lindros finally had reason to smile, even after the cameras had stopped clicking.

"I don't foresee surgery," The Big E said afterward, glancing down at his heavily taped right wrist. "I'm very happy about that. It would have been at least three months had I needed it.

"It's a big relief. Things have been frustrating, but at least now there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel."

SURE OF HIMSELF

Team officials said Lindros travelled down the 401 to London later in the day to have the ligament damage in his wrist examined by a specialist. But even without having yet received that final stamp of approval, the Toronto power forward seemed sure of himself.

"Things are good right now and I know they are going to get better," said Lindros, who collected 22 points in the season's first 30 games before tearing the ligament last month. "I don't have an exact timetable right now but things seem to be moving in the right direction."

The same can be said for forward Nik Antropov, who is expected to return to the lineup against the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow after a month-long absence with a knee ailment.

Poised to make his comeback, Antropov spent practice yesterday skating on a line with youngsters Kyle Wellwood and Matt Stajan.

The news does not seem as good for defenceman Bryan McCabe, who is doubtful for tomorrow night with a tender groin. The game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Tuesday seems to be a more realistic goal for the Leafs' leading point-getter.

"I'm not ruling anything out, but it's not something I am going to rush," McCabe said. "Skating backward is fine but going forward can be (awkward)."

McCabe, Jeff O'Neill and Maruisz Czerkawski were all absent from the team's on-ice workout yesterday while Lindros did some skating after his teammates had left the ice.

O'Neill, suffering from a stiff neck and tender shoulder, hopes to be in uniform against the Coyotes. Having undergone surgery last year, O'Neill said the shoulder seems to swell up whenever he is hit.

Czerkawski, meanwhile, has been feeling lethargic of late due to an unidentified illness and was scheduled to undergo tests yesterday.

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THE ILL ROOM

- Bryan McCabe (Groin) Did not practice. -- Doubtful for tomorrow. Tuesday in Colorado seems more likely.

- Eric Lindros (wrist) -- Says he won't need surgery. No timetable.

- Nik Antropov (knee) -- Probable versus Coyotes tomorrow.

- Jeff O'Neill (neck/ shoulder) -- Missed practice for "maintenance day." Pat Quinn lists him as probable.

- Mariusz Czerkawski (illness) -- Missed practice yesterday, had tests conducted, day-to-day.

- Darcy Tucker (ribs) -- Says he should be able to go.


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