Leafs hoping Kaberle returns against Habs

Kaberle was scheduled to undergo an x-ray in Montreal yesterday and, if all was well, was expected...

Kaberle was scheduled to undergo an x-ray in Montreal yesterday and, if all was well, was expected to play. General manager Brian Burke said in an e-mail that the results of Kaberle's tests were not expected to be back until late last night or this morning. (SUN Media/ Dave Abel)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. -- In order to truly understand just how inexperienced the Maple Leafs blue line has been the past week or so, consider the following numbers.

Veteran Pavel Kubina, the greybeard of the bunch, has participated in 736 National Hockey League games during his career, one highlighted by a Stanley Cup championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

That is more -- quite significantly more -- than the combined total of the other five defencemen who suited up for Toronto in the team's 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on Thursday.

Add up the career NHL appearances of Ian White (230), Jeff Finger (150), Anton Stralman (85), Luke Schenn (60) and Phil Oreskovic (6) and you come up with a total of 531 -- some 205 fewer than Kubina has laced up for.

Keep in mind that White was banished to the press box at the beginning of the season. When coach Ron Wilson finally did insert him into the lineup, White spent some time dabbling at forward before finally finding a home on the back end.

Finger, who must have felt like he won the lottery last summer when the Leafs approached him with a four-year, $14 million US contract, has played the equivalent of less than two full NHL seasons, while Stralman has barely played more than one. As for rookies Schenn and Oreskovic, it has been baptism by fire this year, a scenario that can lead to young players getting burned.

That was the case against the Panthers.

Coach Ron Wilson practically said as much during his post-game news conference, indicting that his defencemen struggled. That was especially true in the second period when the hosts fired 19 shots at Leafs goalie Martin Gerber, scoring twice in the process.

The first Florida goal came when Stralman was humiliated by a shifty deke by Steven Weiss, The second occurred after Schenn was caught up ice, And the third saw Finger making a futile attempt to defend despite playing without a stick, which had snapped just moments earlier.

The Leafs could get a reinforcement today in the form of Tomas Kaberle, who is itching to get back into the lineup for tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Kaberle was scheduled to undergo an x-ray in Montreal yesterday and, if all was well, was expected to play. General manager Brian Burke said in an e-mail that the results of Kaberle's tests were not expected to be back until late last night or this morning.

Either way, Finger said inexperience on defence is no legitimate excuse.

"With veterans like Kabby and (Mike Van Ryn) injured and out of the lineup, there are guys here who are expected to eat up the minutes," Finger said. "When that happens, we have to take advantage. But we can't turn the puck over like we did (against Florida)."

Just remember: In every rebuilding year, there will be warts.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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