Kubina back soon

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Alexei Ponikarovsky is back on the top line.

Vesa Toskala is back on top of his game.

And Pavel Kubina is on the verge of being back in the lineup.

It's enough to bring a rare flash of tranquility to the face of coach Paul Maurice.

Just a week after he and beleaguered general manager John Ferguson were front and centre on the firing line according to various media outlets, all seems to be fine in Leafland after Toronto earned five of a possible six points in its past three outings.

What a difference a week makes.

Kubina's progress is the most encouraging aspect for team officials, who watched their $5 million-a-year man play his best hockey in a Maple Leafs uniform before suffering medial collateral ligament damage in his left knee against the New York Rangers on Nov. 10 at the Air Canada Centre.

Originally diagnosed to be out at least a month, Kubina is gunning to make his return less than four weeks after being hurt.

QUICK HEALER

Kubina, who took part in a full practice yesterday for the first time since the injury, is aiming to be in the Maple Leafs lineup Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers -- the same team he was hurt against.

"It's fine now. I just have to get my legs back under me," Kubina said yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

"I've always been a quick healer and that's a good thing because, believe me, that first week at home, I was not a fun guy to be around."

While Kubina is not scheduled to dress for tonight's game against the Nashville Predators, fans will get the chance to see Toronto's familiar top line reunited again when the Leafs take to the ice in what is a rare Hogtown visit by the boys from Music City.

Ponikarovsky returned to the first unit with Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov at yesterday's workout, usurping Mark Bell from the line. While Maurice said Bell still will get some time with the No. 1 line here and there, he admitted that Ponikarosky has exhibited chemistry with Sundin and Antropov.

"We have got to do what we must to be a dominant line," Ponikarovsky said. "I mean, where else would you want to be than playing with (Sundin and Antropov)? It's fun, and we play well together."

Bell, meanwhile, spent practice on a crash line with Chad Kilger and John Pohl.

As for Toskala, he finally appears to be fitting in comfortably with the Leafs.

After Andrew Raycroft was yanked 10 days ago in the first period of a 5-1 pasting at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes, Toskala stepped in and has not looked back.

In the subsequent three games Toskala went 2-0-0-1, allowing just seven goals in that span.

"I like to play a lot, so that is good," Toskala said.

"I can see the team is playing with more confidence. I noticed it in the (4-3 shootout loss) to Montreal last week. When you play goal, you can get a good feel for the team."

And right now, according to Toskala and his teammates, this team finally has become a feel-good story.


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