Happy return for Wozniewski

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

For many Maple Leafs, the bitter cold turned their cheeks as blue as their jerseys yesterday.

For Andy Wozniewski, it was nothing more than a breath of fresh air.

Called up from the Marlies to replace the injured Carlo Colaiacovo, Wozniewski gladly braved the chilly temperatures at Swansea's Rennie Park in order to participate in the Leafs' outdoor practice.

A few frozen tootsies were a small price to pay if it meant being back in the NHL again.

"I'm just going to keep it simple," said Wozniewski, who is expected to be in the Leafs lineup tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.

"I feel I'm in better shape than when I started the season up here. There should be a few less nerves too.

"At the same time I feel bad for Carlo. I saw what happened to him."

Colaiacovo is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion when he slammed into the boards in Ottawa Monday night.

Wozniewski can relate. He has gone through his own share of bad luck this season.

After playing in the season opener for the Leafs, Wozniewski was sent down to the Marlies, where he exhibited marked improvement.

But on Nov. 6, fate frowned on the rookie defenceman when a puck hit him in the face, leaving him with a fractured orbital bone and concussion-like symptoms. He did not return to the lineup until a game against Cleveland on Dec. 16.

"Thankfully I feel a lot better now," Wozniewski said. "I wouldn't say I've been frustrated; it's just a matter of playing things out."

The goal of the outdoor practice was to publicize the Leafs' partnership with Home Depot in funding improvements in facilities across the city. Among those in attendance were Toronto mayor David Miller, ex-Maple Leafs captain Rick Vaive and former Maple Leafs assistant general manager Bill Watters.

Coach Pat Quinn claimed it was the first time he had participated in such an outdoor practice since the 1950s .

Asked about receiving a recent vote of confidence from Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of the board of Maple Leaf Sports &Entertainment Ltd., Quinn shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm not even thinking about it," he said. "We just try and do what I try to do every day -- just focus on doing our jobs well."


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