Kubina just about ready

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

Montreal -- It might not be long before a shaggy-haired, 6-foot-4 plug returns to help fill the hole in that leaky Maple Leaf defence.

Coach Paul Maurice, whose club had allowed 33 goals in its seven previous games entering last night, said yesterday the team is very pleased with the recovery of defenceman Pavel Kubina.

Asked if Kubina might return to the lineup some time in mid-November, Maurice broke into a smile.

"I think that might be a bit conservative," he said. "I'm hopeful it will be earlier than that."

Maurice said Kubina is scheduled resume skating "in the next three or four days."

Signed to a four-year, $20-million US free-agent deal this past summer, Kubina, 29, barely had the opportunity to get his feet wet with his new team after getting injured during a game against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 9.

Kubina became tangled up with Panthers forward Todd Bertuzzi in the third period of the Leafs' 2-1 victory and immediately crumpled to the ice in excruciating pain.

Subsequent tests showed a strain of the medial collateral muscle, leaving Kubina and the Leafs breathing a sigh of relief. An injury of that nature requires a recovery time of at least four weeks, whereas a tear could have sidelined Kubina for months.

The most pressing dilemma in Kubina's recovery, Maurice said, is keeping him from overdoing it.

"We had to hold him off the bike the next day (after the injury)," Maurice said. "He wanted to be on that bike within two or three days. We've been trying to keep him under control, if you will, because he's really pushing himself. He's a real gamer.

"He's doing quite well. We're real happy (with his progress). He looks like he's going to be on target. The question will be when we get him back on the ice and get ready to turn him loose, how long will it take him to get into game shape."


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