Pavel Kubina was not about to let a broken finger stop him from suiting up the past couple of weeks.
The hulking Maple Leafs defenceman sucked up the pain and did not miss any games since recently blocking a shot with his open hand, an injury he hid from the public quite nicely.
But there was no hiding Kubina's frustration Saturday night when he left the ice after being smeared against the boards by New York Rangers forward Blair Betts.
A frustrated Kubina smashed his stick as he headed for the dressing room, cursing at yet another dose of misfortune.
While the Leafs say he will be sidelined "indefinitely," the hard-luck blue liner will be out at least a month -- and quite possibly longer -- after suffering a medial collateral ligament injury to his right knee in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers.
It could have been worse.
"At least it's been indicated to us that no surgery will be required," general manager John Ferguson said last night.
A year ago, Kubina avoided going under the knife when he strained the MCL in his left knee, an injury that caused him to miss about four weeks.
"He's understandably frustrated," Ferguson said. "Here's a tough guy who has played physical, blocked shots, and now this happens."
The 30-year-old Czech was off to a promising start to the season, racking up a goal, 10 assists and a plus-seven rating in 18 games.
The ailment comes just as the Leafs were getting healthy again. Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and Bryan McCabe returned from injury in the past week, while Mark Bell has played three games since coming off his 15-game, NHL-imposed suspension.
"What it does is give others the opportunity to show us what they can do," Ferguson said.
The Leafs last night were leaning toward calling up Swedish defenceman Staffan Kronwall.
While he would have preferred to start the 2007-08 campaign with the parent club, Kronwall has been a model citizen on the farm, compiling three assists and a plus-seven rating in 12 games for the Marlies.
"I'm fully aware that guys go down," Kronwall said in a phone interview from Cleveland after last night's 5-4 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters. "But as long as I've been down here, my focus has been on the Marlies."
Also waiting in the wings is fellow Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman, who has seven points in seven games with the Marlies and was an adequate fill-in for the Leafs when McCabe was sidelined with a groin injury.
"I hadn't heard about (Kubina)," Stralman said from Cleveland. "You just have to stay ready and be happy when and if the call comes."
A look at the various woes that have befallen defenceman Pavel Kubina since he signed a four-year, $20-million US deal with the Maple Leafs 16 months ago:
- Oct. 4/06: Missed opening game of regular season while serving one-game suspension for a pre-season cross-checking incident against Detroit Red Wings.
- Oct. 12 to Nov. 6/06: Missed 13 games with strained medial collateral ligament in left knee.
- Nov. 6 to Nov. 11/06:Missed two games while in Czech Republic to attend birth of his first child.
- Feb. 24 to March 3/07:Missed five games with a broken finger.
- Nov. 11/07 to ?: Out indefinitely after suffering medial collateral ligament damage in right knee during game Nov. 10 versus New York Rangers.