No quit in Mats

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Mats Sundin finds himself steering an injury-depleted club into non-playoff territory for the first time in eight seasons but insists he is not looking beyond this year.

"I'm 35 ... I realize I'm not at the start of my career," the Maple Leafs captain said. "It's frustrating we are out of a playoff spot. We're all used to seeing us doing better.

"I'm disappointed about the season. Our playoffs started a couple of weeks back and we have a lot of games to play to try to make it in. That's where all my focus is right now."

Sundin has one year left on his contract and has a no-trade clause. Perhaps general manager John Ferguson will try to trade him in the summer, or maybe it comes down to sending him to a contender at the trade deadline in a year's time.

Does it make any sense to keep Sundin around if the Leafs are about to enter a re-building phase and/or won't be contenders for a few years at least?

Sundin refused to blame his team's problems on the rash of injuries a number of impact players have suffered this season, including himself. Some predicted the Leafs were going to be in big trouble putting so much faith in veterans such as Ed Belfour, Eric Lindros and Jason Allison, all of whom have long injury rapsheets.

Lo and behold, all three have had their seasons end because of injuries and likely won't wear a Leafs sweater again.

Allison was the latest, going down with a broken bone in his hand. The Leafs say he is out indefinitely, but few expect him back.

There has been plenty said about Allison's lack of speed, but his absence creates a hole on the power play.

"We're going to miss him in these last 10 games," Sundin said. " I think Jason had a great year for us. That's sports, you can never tell what is going to happen. I think all teams go through injuries in the season, but it is not why we are where we are in the standings."

Coach Pat Quinn indicated Kyle Wellwood, who does not have Allison's strength but is as shifty as they come in tight situations, will see an increase in power-play time.

"Maybe you could have predicted that (all of Belfour, Allison and Lindros would finish the season hurt), I don't know," Quinn said.

"We were hopeful none of that would occur, and that they would have big seasons for us. It is ironic, if you want (to call it that), that they are not available now."


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