Leafs expect Belfour to return

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

There were no Ed Belfour sightings at practice yesterday, but the Maple Leafs insist their goaltender has a valid medical excuse and will return shortly.

After first saying he had no updates on Belfour's bad back, coach Pat Quinn confirmed the speculation that the pain is isolated to the area where Belfour was operated on for a ruptured disc during the lockout year.

"From what I understand the treatment was an injection on the locale to see if they could get some of the inflammation quieted down and relieve some of the pain," Quinn said. "Anyone who has had back issues knows what that is. It takes time for that to work and obviously he's resting and hoping that it works."

General manager John Ferguson refused to say if it was a drastic pain-killing cortisone injection versus an anti-inflammatory drug, but was optimistic Belfour will be back with the Leafs "in the next few days" during a three-game trip. Marlies callup Jean-Sebastien Aubin will be the backup for now.

Quinn dismissed speculation that Belfour's absence, which came after a long period of good health, was linked to the uninviting prospect of sharing more playing time with Mikael Tellqvist down the stretch. But Belfour, trying to convince the Leafs to pick up his contract for next season when he'll be 41, would not help his cause by going into a snit.

Unhappy with his own game and the play in front of him most of the year, he had rebounded last week up to and including Friday's 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

"He's a player," said Quinn, who has not committed to any goaltending split of the team's remaining 18 games, other than obvious back-to-back situations. "Eddie played hard his whole career and he'll continue to do that."


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