Peca expects to play

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

During his one-year stint with the Edmonton Oilers, Michael Peca got more than his fair share of playing time against Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche.

On eight different occasions during the 2005-06 season, the two Northwest Division rivals locked horns, often leaving Peca facing the daunting task of keeping Burnaby Joe off the scoreboard.

Fast forward to tonight when Sakic and Co. find themselves making a rare visit to the Air Canada Centre to take on the Maple Leafs.

Can Sakic, a shoo-in to make the Hall of Fame one day, expect yet another dose of being shadowed by Peca, one of the top defensive forwards in the game?

That decision rests in the hands of Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who ultimately will decide the best way to attempt to scuttle the offensive talents of Sakic.

But at least it appears Maurice might have the option of using Peca, an alternative that did not seem so realistic earlier in the week.

Nursing a right hip flexor injury he aggravated last week in New Jersey, Peca had not skated for four consecutive days, leaving his availability for the game tonight in doubt.

But Peca appeared to ease those concerns somewhat when he returned to practice yesterday and gave himself a passing grade.

"(Over the weekend), any time it was extended and I had to pull back fast or there was a change in direction, it was pretty bothersome," he said. "But it's much better."

Should he continue to feel game ready after testing the ailment at the morning skate today, expect to see Peca in the lineup when the puck is dropped.

Feel good

"I feel good," he said. "I'm going to come to the rink expecting to play but, at the same time, you still have to be cautious.

"Any time you've been away from rink and not playing, it's not fun. You miss it a little bit. It revives you a bit when you get back."

"I think you pick and choose your fights when it comes to injuries. Some become worse and worse the more you try to fight through it. Others, you just put up with the pain without the threat of the injury becoming worse."

The Avs might not have the same star quality of past years, but Peca still feels they are a force to be reckoned with.

"You can't be fooled by the fact they don't have (Alex) Tanguay and (Rob) Blake any more," he said. "They have some young guys in (Wojtek) Wolski and (Brad) Richardson who are playing well for them. And they're still going to be quick on the forecheck."


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