O'Neill leaning to return

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV has fired up Jeff O'Neill's enthusiasm for the sport once again.

So much so, in fact, that the King City native is leaning toward a return to the Maple Leafs next season.

O'Neill was contemplating sitting out the 2006-07 campaign because of an ailing right shoulder, the fact that the death of his brother in a vehicular accident last summer still haunts him, and his well-publicized fear of flying.

But, before O'Neill even thinks of returning, his shoulder must be 100%. He underwent successful surgery on the shoulder Tuesday, almost seven months after crashing into the Ottawa Senators' net during the '05-06 season opener.

"It's the last hurdle," the 30-year-old said last night. "It basically has been a pain in the butt for me this entire past season. If it's healthy, I think (I'll be back)."

O'Neill, who faces months of rehab before he says he will make a final decision, admits his passion for hockey has been cranked up the past few weeks.

"Sitting there seeing playoff hockey on TV, it stings that we barely missed out," he said. "It makes you more determined that it won't happen again."

O'Neill has one year remaining on his Leafs contract.

"We have no reservations that he'll be ready for training camp," Leafs general manager John Ferguson said. "We look for him to come in with the proper physical condition and shape he needs to be in to be effective."


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