Nik Back? Owen Out?
by John McCauley
(TORONTO) -- Nik Antropov is itching to get back in the lineup, but head coach Pat Quinn might not have to scratch someone to get him in.
Owen Nolan didn't play in the third period of Tuesday night's 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues. His hip was acting up again and Quinn decided not play him as a precaution. He will be evaluated on Wednesday.
During last year's playoff Nolan was hindered by a hip injury that prohibited him from playing the gritty style Leaf fans saw upon his arrival. The big right winger had been a big key to the Leafs eight-game winning streak, which ended up being two games short of the franchise mark of 10 straight.
Whether Nolan plays or not in Minnesota on Thursday should not determine the return of Antropov. He was meeting with team doctors one last time before getting the go-ahead.
|Gary Roberts could find himself on a new line if Owen Nolan is injured.
(Graig Abel Photography)
The lanky Kazak has missed the last 20 games with a separated shoulder. He was injured falling into the boards during an OT loss to the Atlanta Thrashers at the end of October, but after all the youngster has encountered nothing is a surprise.
With two knee surgeries, a broken foot, and the shoulder issues on his medical chart, the team may be trying to find a witch doctor to solve his woes instead of rehab.
Look for a line shuffle if Nolan doesn't play.
Antropov has always looked good as Sundin's left winger and Gary Roberts could be put back with Joe Nieuwendyk, a combination that was working earlier this season.
If Nolan is in uniform, Antropov might be a good fit to play centre on the fourth line with Tom Fitzgerald, who has played wing for most of his tenure in Toronto. Either Perrott or Ponikarovsky would then play on his other side.
NOTES: Jackman was sent to St. John's on a conditioning stint after being a healthy scratch since Karel Pilar replaced him in the lineup on Nov. 20th in Edmonton. He does not have to clear waivers because of the conditioning designation. He is allowed to stay in St. John's for 14 days before either returning to the Leafs or then having to clear waivers to stay on the Rock.