Have faith, Leaf fans told

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Centre Kyle Wellwood's sudden visit with the surgeon's scalpel Saturday did much more than fuel chaotic debate as to who should fill his vacant spot on the second line.

It also created a sense of paranoia and cynicism about the status of players who have a history of injuries like Wellwood and, in this case, Carlo Colaiacovo.

Despite the insistence of Maple Leafs officials that spurts of pain piercing through Colaiacovo's surgically-repaired knee are normal in his rehab, questions swirled yesterday about the young defenceman's future.

When coach Paul Maurice told reporters that Colaiacovo had been scratched from tonight's exhibition tilt against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre, warning lights went on en masse.

Call it The Wellwood Effect.

Just a week ago, the Leafs were confident that the soreness being experienced by Wellwood was just a training camp ailment. Three days later he was undergoing surgery in the same area in which he had a sports hernia operation back in January.

Hours after Maurice had met with the media at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday, Maurice still was preaching the message that the decision to sit Colaiacovo should not ignite widespread overreaction.

"He's fine," Maurice said. "He could actually play but we want to use the time to strengthen his leg."

Maurice said Colaiacovo likely will see action in one of the back-to-back games against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday and Saturday, if not both.

The coach then boldly predicted that, barring a setback, he expects Colaiacovo in the lineup for the Leafs season opener against the Ottawa Senators exactly one week from today.

"Unless something happens in practice, he's going to play. The pain comes and goes, but the doctors said that was going to be part of it. Having said that, if he comes in and says the pain is too much, we'll close him down.

"If he's good for (the season opener), we won't think about the knee. He'll get his normal minutes."

Expect fellow defencemen Andy Wozniewski, Anton Stralman and Staffan

Kronwall to keep a keen eye on Colaiacovo's status.

Wozniewski, who has made the team out of camp the past two seasons before being felled by injuries, is making a strong bid again.


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