Bell's day for Joey

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Nik Antropov fished Mark Bell's first Leaf goal puck out of the net as a souvenir, but Bell knows someone in a Maple Leaf sweater who would treasure it even more.

Bell's five-year-old nephew, Joey, is battling a life threatening illness in St. Paul's near Stratford and the disc from last night's big goal is heading there.

"He's a little guy fighting for his life every day,'' Bell said. "They gave him four weeks to live, he's five now and will be six soon. He's got a lot of things going on. He's been in a wheelchair his whole life, he has to be fed through a tube in his stomach.

"My parents bought him a home and away sweater and he wears my jersey every game. It puts things in perspective when you go home and see the little guy. I go see him every chance I get.''

Bell, recently promoted to the first line with Mats Sundin and Antropov, found the short side on an unprepared Dany Sabourin at 3:56 of the first period.

"It was just so fast he didn't see it," Bell joked.

The goal came in his 12th game as a Leaf, having missed the first 15 while under NHL suspension. The sentence was automatic after he pled no contest to an alcohol related hit and run 15 months ago in the San Jose area while playing for the Sharks. Bell still faces up to six months in jail at the end of this season.

Bell said he made it through the last year "just believing" in himself.

Paul Maurice took him off the top line toward the end of last night's 4-2 win over Pittsburgh to restore Alexei Ponikarovsky "for some familiarity".

The latter had missed two games with a groin injury, but Bell's work ethic meshes well with Sundin and Antropov and it's a good fallback plan for the Leafs in future.

Bell has had back-to-back 20-goal years with Chicago, but it was thought his career was on the wane, esepcially after his legal problems and a knee injury in San Jose.

"Scoring a goal for the Leafs is a pretty special thing," said Bell.


Videos

Photos