Life without Bryan

Bryan McCabe. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

Bryan McCabe. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

The Maple Leafs will miss Bryan McCabe the next six to eight weeks, but not likely enough to trade for a replacement.

Though general manager John Ferguson has until midnight tomorrow to deal before a week-long league roster freeze kicks in -- during which Toronto plays four games -- the Leafs flew to the southeast yesterday, planning to distribute McCabe's 30 minutes a night among the existing group.

There has been a small surge of trade talk around the league entering this week, partly due to teams wanting to wrap up odds and ends before the holidays. The Edmonton Oilers, with Sheldon Souray and Dick Tarnstrom returning to the lineup this week have a surplus, with Tarnstrom believed to be available, Scott Niedermayer's return to Anaheim means one less job there and Frantisek Kaberle is a healthy scratch in Carolina. Joe Corvo could be acquired from Ottawa, but never in an intra-division swap with the Leafs. Toronto is almost out of cap space, so Ferguson would have to be creative in getting an experienced defenceman.

"We wouldn't rule anything out, but we think we're quite capable of giving that ice time to the players we have," Ferguson said. "Pavel Kubina has made a lot of strides since his injury, we have Anton Stralman here (called up yesterday) and we have Ian White and Andy Wozniewski (ready to take on larger roles)."

A club release last night confirmed McCabe had "successful" surgery in Toronto to repair three left metacarpals, part of five long bones that join the fingers to the wrist. Coach Paul Maurice had calmed down somewhat after Saturday night, when he charged that Montreal Canadiens Andrei Kostitsyn deliberately had pushed McCabe into a vulnerable position on the glass at the Bell Centre.

"It was not a clean play," Maurice said, though most of his players politely refuted his version and called it a freak accident.

At practice yesterday, Maurice reunited Czech national team pals Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina, planning to use that duo plus Hal Gill-Ian White for the majority of time, while spotting Andy Wozniewski and Stralman. Kaberle and Kubina will also be on the point of the Leafs' top power play unit.

"Derrick Walser (Marlies leading scoring on defence) has been playing well, but we needed someone who can move the puck," Maurice said of summoning the young Swede Stralman for the second time this year. "Playing Pavel gives us another right-handed shot on the power play, which is more risky, but maybe we need some risk there."

The predictable Toronto man-advantage strategy ranked 27th in the NHL before last night. Kubina, who played on the Tampa Bay Lightning's top unit with Dan Boyle and forward Brad Richards, said he was more than ready for the task.

Barring any more injuries tonight, Ferguson does not anticipate making any roster moves before the holiday embargo. Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to join team practices this week to complete the final stage of recovery from a season-long knee injury.

The logjam in the standings -- 23 clubs had between 30 and 39 points before last night -- could scare some teams off a move before the final trade deadline on Feb. 26, or convince one to try to break the tie.

"I really believe that there's going to be such parity that the difference between being No. 1 or No. 8 is going to be hardly nothing," Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said last week. "There's going to be tons of upsets come playoff time."


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