Bell might be back

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Still licking their wounds from the now-famous Meltdown at the Meadowlands, the hobbling Maple Leafs finally received some positive news last night.

For once, Friday the 13th wasn't just full of gloom and doom.

With defenceman dropping like fl ies since the start of training camp, the Leafs appear to be on the verge of welcoming one of their young up-andcomers back into the fray.

Doctorslast night told defenceman Brendan Bell that they were pleased with the progress his injured ankle had made, meaning

the former Ottawa 67's defenceman could be back in the lineup as early as tonight when the Leafs play host to the Calgary Flames at the Air Canada Centre.

General manager John Ferguson said a decision on Bell's status will be made after the pre-game skate this morning.

"Whether I play (tonight) or not, it's defi nitely good news," an upbeat Bell said last night. "I know it's stable, and that makes me confident.

"The doctors said they were happy with it, and that makes me happy too. I just want to play." Bell was injured after absorbing a hack from Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators during an exhibition game in Halifax Sept. 24. Bell was forced to wear a cast and walk with crutches for a couple of weeks, but all of that has been put in the past.

"Sitting out has been difficult," Bell said. "We've had so many defenceman hurt, it's unbelievable. You just want to get in there so bad and help the guys."

His teammates certainly could have used the help Thursday night, blowing a three-goal lead in the third period en route to a 7-6 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.

It was the fi rst loss in a Leafs jersey for goalie J-S Aubin, who had gone undefeated (9-0-2) in his previous 11 starts in blue and white.

"I'll bounce back," Aubin said. "These things happen. There were some weird bounces out there."

Bounces or not, those who claimed throughout training camp that the Leafs starters job was up for grabs can put that argument to bed. Andrew Raycroft is the man. Case closed.

"You can expect to see No. 1 in there a lot, I can tell you that," coach Paul Maurice said of Raycroft.

If Bell does not receive the green light against the Flames, Maurice could go back to Wade Belak, who played defence against the Devils. Belak and Michael Peca did not practice yesterday, but Maurice said they are probable to face Calgary.

As for the blue line, Staff an Kronwall, Pavel Kubina and Carlo Colaiacovo are still weeks away from coming back while Andy Wozniewski's shoulder separation could knock him out for much, if not all, of the season.


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