The agony etched all over his face, Pavel Kubina fought back the tears as he was helped to the Maple Leafs medical room last night.
On an evening when the Leafs finally changed their fortunes when it comes to shootouts, it was the same old tired story as far as their battered blue line is concerned.
As Paul Maurice's players celebrated their dramatic 2-1 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers at the Air Canada Centre, their frivolity was tempered by concerns regarding the injury suffered by Kubina late in the third period.
The towering defenceman hurt his knee after becoming tangled up with the Panthers' Todd Bertuzzi, thereby adding yet another name to the Leafs ever-growing list of hobbled defencemen.
During his post-game press conference, Maurice acknowledged the possibility that the ailment could be serious.
"If he plays Thursday (in New Jersey), you'll know it's a playing injury," the coach said of Kubina, who will be checked out again today.
Friday the 13th might still be three days away, but the bad luck plaguing the Toronto defence corps has been around since the opening day of training camp last month when a woozy Carlo Colaiacovo wobbled off the ice.
In the subsequent weeks, injuries also claimed Brendan Bell, Staffan Kronwall and Andy Wozniewski, three young players making a bid to land a full-time job on the Toronto defence.
"We have really been hit hard with injuries back there," captain Mats Sundin said. "We just hope Pavel will be OK."
Maurice will not make an emergency callup from the Marlies until more is known on the status of Kubina. Veteran Brad Brown would seem to be one of the logical candidates.
In the meantime, the Toronto bench boss has a couple of options.
Having been hacked in the foot by the Ottawa Senators' Dany Heatley during an exhibition game in Halifax on Sept. 24, Bell shed his cast and crutches last week and resumed skating yesterday. Maurice is not ruling out the possibility of having Bell in the lineup against the Devils.
Instead of taking a risk with Bell, Maurice could decide to shift Wade Belak back to defence and insert young Alexsander Suglobov up front. Suglobov was acquired from the Devils at the trade deadline last year and might be looking to make some waves against his former club.
Whichever path he chooses to take, Maurice can be sure of this much -- his Leafs will arrive in the Jersey swamps having collected at least one point in three consecutive games.
Kyle Wellwood saved the day for the hosts last night, blasting a shot on the short side past outstanding Panthers goalie Alex Auld at 11:17 of the final period to tie the game 1-1. Auld had been perfect to that point, stopping all 41 Leaf shots leading up to Wellwood's missile.
Leafs goaltender Andrew Raycroft was no slouch either, allowing just a Stephen Weiss power-play goal during regulation.
Raycroft would have the last laugh in the shootout, however.
Frustrated at Toronto's 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday, Raycroft held both Bertuzzi and Nathan Horton off the scoresheet in the shootout. Meanwhile goals by Sundin and Darcy Tucker in the breakaway format sealed the deal.
"It's still tough on the goalies, but at least we came out ahead," said Raycroft, whose Leafs outshot Florida 48-25.