Kubina injury puts strain on D

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina gets helped off the ice by teammates in the third...

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina gets helped off the ice by teammates in the third period Monday night during the Leafs shootout win over the Florida Panthers. (Toronto Sun/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Pavel Kubina knows it could have been worse.

Yes, he appreciates that he won't have to go under the surgeon's knife.

Yes, he is aware that one more little awkward twist of his left knee Monday night could have left him sidelined for the rest of the season.

These are things for which he should be grateful.

But as he attempted to digest the medical report revealing he'll be out indefinitely with a strained medial collateral ligament, the veteran defenceman could not hide his bitterness.

"While he was happy that he will not require surgery, he is very very disappointed," Petr Svoboda, Kubina's agent, said last night, just moments after speaking with his client. "His mood was not very good.

"For most of his career Pavel has been pretty much injury free. Then he misses most of the pre-season with (a hip flexor). And now this.

"He wants to play. He is a competitive guy. And he is having fun in Toronto.He told me he feels (the Leafs) have a good chance to win."

Svoboda added that Kubina "had no idea" how the injury occurred.

Kubina was hurt during a collision with the Florida Panthers' Todd Bertuzzi in the third period of the Leafs 2-1 shootout victory Monday and was in agony when helped off the ice.

Given the possibility that Kubina might have suffered a serious season-ending tear in the knee, Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson admitted last night that avoiding surgery was the team's "best-case scenario."

Listed as having a strained MCL, the official line is that Kubina is out "indefinitely," although Ferguson acknowledged a minimum four weeks "might not be far off."

"It's a setback but it could have been worse," the Leafs GM said. "We just need guys to step up."

Of course, there are fewer and fewer candidates on the blue line to do that. At the time of Kubina's injury the Leafs already were missing four injured defencemen, a lengthy list that includes Brendan Bell, Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski and Carlo Colaiacovo.

While Bell has shaken off the effects of his injured leg and started skating again, the Leafs do not feel he is quite ready. As a result, coach Paul Maurice has opted to move swingman Wade Belak back to defence for the road game against the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night

Kubina's presence was going to reduce the heavy work load for vets Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. So much for that plan.

"Kabby and I are used to playing lots of minutes so its no big deal," McCabe said last night. "I just hope Pavel will be okay. I don't know what the deal has been the past few years, but we just keep having defencemen go down year after year."

There was speculation yesterday the Leafs might make a pitch for free agent Brian Leetch, who played for Toronto in the 2003-04 season.

But his handlers are on the record as saying their client still is contemplating retirement and would need an ideal situation to come back.


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