Young defencemen on mend

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The Maple Leafs could always use a couple of W's at this critical time of year.

In this case they're defencemen Andy Wozniewski and Ian White, both on the verge of coming off the injured list, White perhaps as soon as tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. Both have separated shoulders, Wozniewski requiring October surgery, White about to beat his recovery from a Jan. 9 mishap against Carolina by a few days. Wozniewski was optimistic of playing in the next couple of games, but Maurice put a damper on that yesterday.

"I think he's still a ways off," Maurice said. "The amount of time he has missed is a real factor in handling the puck, moving the puck and overall strength. When we make that decision, I hope we have six or seven healthy enough guys for it to be a problem. But it's not on the near horizon."

White expects he'll be back by next week for sure.

"By the book, I'm a week ahead, it has healed up nicely and feels good," he said. "It happened at the right time (with an extra six days between games for the all-star break)."

Both players' conditions impact fellow rookie Brendan Bell.

"We don't often talk about first-year guys in that vein, but (White) has done a great job moving the puck up ice," Maurice said. "Brendan has done a fine job with Ian out and we've won some big games with him, but at the same time, Ian does some things that (Bell can't)."

RAY OF HOPE

Goaltender Andrew Raycroft aims to put a number of rocky home starts behind him tonight before the Leafs head out for five straight on the road, where he and the team have played far more cohesively.

"It's exciting, a big division game on a Saturday and a lot of tradition involved," Raycroft said. "These conference games mean a lot to everyone."

Maurice confirmed that Raycroft will get the lion's share of work as the Leafs head into the final third of the schedule.

"He was instrumental in two wins on (last week's) road trip and I don't think anyone on that Pittsburgh trip was looking for him to (pull out a win with the Leafs in the penalty box all night)."


Videos

Photos