Injuries have helped in horrors on blue line

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. -- There's no point defending the indefensible and one good game won't get the Maple Leafs' struggling goaltending off the hook.

But it hasn't helped the bad record in their own end that the team has suffered an inordinate amount of injuries on the blue line.

With Mike Van Ryn about to be sidelined for the third time after getting dinged Saturday night in Montreal against the Canadiens and doubtful for tonight's game against the Florida Panthers, man games lost among the five regular Leafs blueliners will hit a whopping 73.

The Leafs' league lead in goals against (193) is due more to the disappointing season of Vesa Toskala.

But, of course, the upheaval on defence can't help.

"It just seems we have been chasing our tail to have a healthy defence," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after practice yesterday at the BankAtlantic Center.

"When we do have a healthy defence, we usually play our best hockey."

Wilson hinted that Van Ryn's latest "lower body" injury might not be as bad as originally feared but the team won't know until results of an MRI taken yesterday are revealed. The Leafs called up Jaime Sifers from their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, as a replacement.

Van Ryn, who made the Florida trip with the club, is the leader in games lost at 30 if he doesn't dress tonight followed by Jeff Finger (14), Luke Schenn (12), Jonas Frogren (12) and Tomas Kaberle (5).

"It makes a goalie's job tougher, no question," Leafs backup goalie Curtis Joseph said yesterday of the constantly changing blue-line rotation.

"We know what our guys are going to do all the time, whether they turn this way or turn that way and you can be ready.

"Familiarity is good. Communication is good.

"When you have different guys all the time, those things aren't going to be as prevalent as they should be."

None of it excuses the shoddy play of Toskala, of course, a point hammered home again by the coach yesterday.

"It can't be one and done, one good game and answer your critics," Wilson said referring to Toskala's solid effort in a 5-2 win over Montreal on Saturday.

"You have to put it together for months at a time. We need solid goaltending."


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