Reitz getting closer

STEVE BUFFERY

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Defenceman Erik Reitz, whom the Leafs acquired off waivers on March 4, began riding a stationary bike yesterday for the first time since breaking his foot a few weeks ago and hopes to finally get to play for his new team before the season is over.

"This was the first time I've been able to ride the bike in two weeks and I got my walking cast off now, so it's just a matter of dealing with the pain and letting my bone heal," Reitz said.

Toronto is the third NHL stop this season for the the 6-foot-1, 215 pound defenceman, who was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2000 and dealt to the Rangers on Jan.29 for Dan Fritsche before the Leafs snatched him up on trade deadline day.

Reitz, 26, has suffered a number of injuries since turning pro and that's limited his NHL experience to 48 games, but he does bring the qualities that general manager Brian Burke wants in the rebuilding Leafs.

"I'm not a scorer," he said. "But I go out there and work hard every night and compete. I get as physical as I can be. I have an edge, try to get in guy's faces and drop the mitts if anyone's messing around. I'm not afraid to fight. I'm hoping I can be their guy."

Reitz is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is hoping the Leafs want him back. He is a Detroit native but now lives in Barrie after spending three seasons with the OHL's Barrie Colts, where he was a Memorial Cup Tournament all-star in 2000 and an OHL first team all-star during the 2001-02 season.

"I can't stay away from Barrie in the summer time ... Kempenfelt Bay in Lake Simcoe and all the good fishing up there," he said. "I bought a boat there last summer and I'm fishing a lot. I catch a lot of perch."

Reitz calls himself a single parent of three, although not in the conventional way. He has a girlfriend and two dogs. All four of them drove up from New York the day after the Leafs picked him up on waivers.

Shoot first

After finishing last season with a disappointing 18 goals, Leafs winger Alexei Ponikarovsky is determined to crack the 20-goal mark this season, which would make it three times he has accomplished that feat in his NHL career. Ponikarovsky had 19 heading into last night's game against the Calgary Flames. Leafs coach Ron Wilson believes scoring 20 wouldn't be a problem for Ponikarovsky if he would just shoot more. The Kiev native, who has a booming shot, said yesterday that he is trying to shoot more while adding that shooting goes against what he learned growing up in the Russian system.


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