Leafs continue to fall

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Lying in a crumpled heap on the ice surface at Lakeshore Lions Arena, Alexei Ponikarovsky chucked his helmet and stick up in the air in disgust, then uttered a colourful word.

Sorry, but such language must remain in the rink and not in print.

Let's just say that Ponikarovsky was peeved, and with good reason.

Moments earlier he had just been hit by teammate Chad Kilger, causing him to collapse to the ice with an injury to his lower left leg.

It was the same nook of the arena -- "The Coffin Corner," as one reporter called it -- in which he injured his shoulder late last season.

Fortunately, Ponikarovsky's condition does not appear to be as serious as he first might have suspected.

His fears of a potential long-term ailment had subsided somewhat when he emerged from the Maple Leafs dressing room an hour later after some much-needed examinations and treatment.

In fact, he hopes to be in the lineup tonight when the struggling Leafs host the New York Islanders, the team that knocked Toronto out of playoff contention last April with a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on the last day of the season.

Whether he plays or not, Ponikarovsky admitted that he was scared when the collision with Kilger sent him tumbling.

"It feels okay," said the Leaf winger before heading off to see the doctor.

"We'll see how it goes at the morning skate but I don't think it is serious.

"At first I thought something was really wrong in there. I took my skate off and checked everything.

"I just didn't see Chad coming from behind. I did not expect that."

Had the Maple Leafs shown such intensity some 16 hours earlier against the Carolina Hurricanes as they exhibited during their late morning practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday, they might have ended up being more competitive in their humiliating 7-1 loss to the 'Canes.

Kilger's hit on Ponikarovsky arguably was the most violent one thrown by the Leafs in days.

Too bad it came against his own teammate.

While the Leafs were busy taking each other out, a miffed coach Paul Maurice ripped up his previous line combinations while welcoming forward Simon Gamache and defenceman Anton Stralman back into the fold from the Marlies.

For captain Mats Sundin, the coach had every reason to boot his players in the butts.

"We all need a (bleepin') shakeup," Sundin declared.

Alexei Ponikarovsky could not have said it any better.


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