Kubina aiming to atone

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

Pavel Kubina claims he didn't hear the boos last year.

Maybe he was wearing earplugs.

The veteran defenceman was a popular whipping boy of the Maple Leafs fans, who claimed he was not worth his hefty $5-million US salary.

If that doesn't serve as motivation for the towering Czech blue-liner this season, what will?

"There always is going to be more pressure on the guys who make the most money," Kubina said yesterday. "There is always something to prove.

"I am very determined to get better every day and help this team make the playoffs."

For all the heat Kubina took last season, he does deserve a little slack.

THREE INJURIES

Groin, finger and knee injuries severely hampered his effectiveness, limiting him to 61 games in his first campaign as a Leaf.

"It was a really tough year for me," said Kubina, who ended up with seven goals and 14 assists. "People had high expectations for me, but none were higher than the ones I had for myself.

"But you can't control the injuries, especially when it's that many. I had more injuries last year than I did over my entire career. I started playing when I was six and I never had a year like last year.

"But that's all behind me now. I'm really looking forward to moving ahead."

The biggest bright spot for Kubina in '06? The birth of daughter Teresa, his first child.

"She kept me alive last season," he said. "She is the best thing that ever happened to me."


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