Two down, maybe one back

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Mats Sundin left Dallas Eakins gasping for air.

As for whether Sundin can do the same to the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night, well, that's up in the air.

Nursing a small tear in his groin, Sundin skated hard for nearly 20 minutes yesterday before his teammates practised at Lakeshore Lions Arena, doing laps with Eakins, one of the Leafs' assistant coaches.

It was more than Sundin, who did not speak to reporters, could do a day earlier on Long Island.

"Mats still had some pain in change of direction and things like that, so that is what we are waiting for to subside," coach Paul Maurice said. "It's day to day. He might go (today) and say he is ready, and he might not."

Even if Sundin, the Leafs captain and leading scorer, is back in action at the HSBC Arena, it might be moot. With eight games remaining, Toronto is six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and will need heavenly intervention to get into the post-season.

What is certain is the Leafs will be without their second-leading scorer, Nik Antropov, through the weekend's games in Buffalo and Saturday night in Ottawa. Antropov said he suffered a partial cartilage tear in one of his knees, an injury suffered against the Sabres last Saturday. The big Kazakh will be out a minimum of five days, saying the tear was "small, really small" and that he "might require minor surgery. Might."

Antropov has been enjoying his best offensive year in the NHL, finally reaching the potential the Leafs saw in him when they plucked him 10th overall in 1998. Antropov has 26 goals and 26 assists (both career highs) and with 70 games this season, is two shy of his career high.

"The season is not over yet and I have an expectation to come back," said Antropov, who did not skate yesterday but planned to this morning. "Obviously, it's frustrating. It is an important time of year for the team and I don't want to be injured. But it has happened, it's the sport we are in and we have to take it as it is."

Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, meanwhile, had an MRI late yesterday afternoon and will be out of the lineup indefinitely, if not for all the Leafs' final eight games.

Colaiacovo, who has suffered more injuries than late daredevil Evel Knievel did in a long and painful career, was hurt Tuesday night against the New York Islanders when he was checked by Sean Bergenheim. Colaiacovo appeared to hurt his hamstring, though his groin may have been involved. General manager Cliff Fletcher, as of early last night, had not been told of the results of the MRI.

A defenceman will be recalled from the Marlies, who played last night at home against Grand Rapids. Maurice jokingly said whoever played the best would be summoned. Among the candidates would be Andy Wozniewski (who scored in the second period last night), Jaime Sifers and Staffan Kronwall.

Whatever, as long as the math experts say the Leafs are alive, they will continue to believe as much.

"I ran into Jim Gregory the other night and he said (once) they were seven back with six games left and found a way," Maurice said. "We're a good weekend away from being right there, and that is what we are planning on."


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