Birthday boy Bates in limbo

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

All Bates Battaglia is getting for his birthday today is a lot of uncertainty about his hockey career.

He woke up yesterday not knowing whether he should report to the Maple Leafs, the Marlies or stay home after he cleared National Hockey League waivers at noon Tuesday. He eventually learned he was required to skate with the Leafs at 10 a.m. at Lakeshore Arena and hopes to be on their flight to Atlanta this afternoon.

Battaglia's $650,000 US contract for this year and next continue to count against the salary cap.

"I want to keep playing here," said Battaglia, who turns 32 today. "I'm trying to go with the flow and do what I normally do.'

Battaglia had no points in 13 games and has lost playing time to Mark Bell's arrival. He played well enough at times last season to justify former Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice's faith in him, but has been unable to crack a healthy Leafs roster.

Maurice gave him a pep talk at the end of practice yesterday and the coach told reporters there were no plans to demote him before the back-to-back games this weekend in Atlanta and Montreal.

But a three-game trip next week might be a different story.

"He remains with the team," general manager John Ferguson said last night. "We're reviewing our options."

The Chicago-born Battaglia had fallen so far off the map in the lockout year that he was playing for Mississippi in the East Coast Hockey League, but was rescued by Maurice the following year when he got the Marlies coaching job. He played all 82 games last season for the Leafs with 31 points.

With no other teams biting on him, Battaglia said he will not protest a demotion to the Marlies. Two of last year's fourth-line forwards on the Leafs, Ben Ondrus and Kris Newbury, have spent the year with the Marlies.


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