Just what doctor ordered

Maple Leafs defenceman Aki Berg turned some heads yesterday by going hard at his first full...

Maple Leafs defenceman Aki Berg turned some heads yesterday by going hard at his first full practice since suffering a rib strain on Jan. 26. If he gets the go-ahead from team doctors, Berg will play against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:25 PM ET

The Maple Leafs aren't cancelling their subscription to the Canadian Medical Association Journal just yet.

But there was good news on three fronts yesterday as the club prepared for its game here tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers and its final 27 matches of the National Hockey League season. Aki Berg should be back tonight, Ken Klee soon after and even Eric Lindros had encouraging reports about coming back from ligament damage in his wrist.

Klee, who barely could walk on the weekend, had a clear MRI yesterday and was well enough to wait on tables during the Have A Heart charity dinner for the Leafs Fund at Ricoh Coliseum last night. He was hurt in a 4-1 loss in Washington on Friday.

"They said there was no fracture, just a bad sprain," a relieved Klee said. "It's obviously improving in a hurry."

Berg shocked everyone by going hard at his first full practice since a rib strain suffered on Jan. 26 against Buffalo. He anticipates playing tonight, pending medical clearance this morning.

"The first few days were painful, but it started getting better and better and I started moving," Berg said yesterday morning at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "I started skating Sunday and it felt fine, then I took the full practice with contact."

Though the young trio of Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski and Jay Harrison filled in well on defence, coach Pat Quinn likely will defer to the veterans as soon as they're 100%. In Berg's case, the Finnish national team has been frantically phoning here as the deadline to finalize its Turin Olympics roster approaches.

"They've been calling a lot because they haven't seen me in the lineup and they're wondering what's going on," Berg said. "I need to play here first. There's no way I can just show up and play (in Turin). There are a few days to go. I'll talk to the doctors."

Lindros was not at practice yesterday as he and a member of the club's medical staff visited a specialist to have the torn ligament examined once again. But Carl Lindros, his father and agent, said the trip was productive.

"He'll be at practice (today) and he'll have some good news," the elder Lindros said without elaborating. "There has been a lot of misinformation out there about Eric's injury."

Asked if Eric expected to return before the end of the season, after so much talk about surgery being inevitable, Carl answered in the affirmative. Eric has not played since Dec. 10 but kept insisting that doctors have advised him surgery isn't needed.

REJOINED THE CLUB

As for injured defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, he has not rejoined the club for even light on-ice workouts since suffering a concussion on Jan. 23 in Ottawa.

The Leafs aren't guaranteed of holding the eighth and final playoff spot before the two-week Olympic break commences on Saturday, but beating the Thrashers at least will ensure Atlanta stays behind. Montreal and Boston are two and one points behind the Leafs, respectively.

The Leafs wrap up with a weekend home-and-home against the New York Rangers. But centre Clarke Wilm said they aren't looking past the Thrashers.

"They've got a lot of skill on their team with Ilya Kovalchuk," Wilm said. "(Marc) Savard finds Kovalchuk a lot and they've got (Marian) Hossa, too. We have to be very aware of them, limit their offensive zone play and not turn pucks over.

"We know what we have to do. We're not satisfied with eighth by any stretch. We've had a tough go of it, there are no excuses. We need to be better and we're showing signs of turning that corner."


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