Poni aims at Panthers

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Alexei Ponikarovsky could be back in the Maple Leafs lineup by the end of the week, according to coach Paul Maurice.

Ponikarovsky, who suffered a lower left leg injury during a practice collision with Chad Kilger last week, took part in the morning skate yesterday at HSBC Arena and left his coach encouraged.

"He skated well," Maurice said. "Hopefully he'll be back Thursday.

The Leafs play host to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, followed by a rare visit from the Chicago Blackhawks two nights later.

Healing forward Kyle Wellwood continues to hope he will be back to face the Blackhawks after undergoing groin surgery late last month.

Both Wellwood and defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo participated in the morning skate, although neither was in the lineup against the host Buffalo Sabres last night.

"They skated me hard and there was no pain," Wellwood said. "It's going to be close but I'm still shooting for Saturday.

"Health-wise, I'm good enough. Fitness-wise, I'm not there."

Colaiacovo refused to put a timetable on his return.

"I think it's still going to be a couple of days before I get my legs under me," he said.

"I feel good but I'm not there yet."

Colaiacovo is recovering from knee surgery he underwent last spring.

Forward Boyd Devereaux, meanwhile did not play last night. Devereaux is suffering from knifing back pain after he was cross-checked a week ago during the Leafs' 7-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

BRIAN'S SONG

A free agent at the end of the season, Sabres defenceman Brian Campbell does not want to follow in the footsteps of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury by leaving town.

The speedy skater, who had nine points through Buffalo's first four games, makes no secret of the fact that he wishes to remain in the Queen City.

"I like it here. I want to stay here. I've let it be known that I'm happy here. We'll take it from there," said Campbell, a native of Strathroy, Ont.


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