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Time For Kidd And The Kid To Step Up

Monday, 16.02.2004 / 10:12 AM / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
"I don't know," Quinn said. Still, when asked about whether there should be serious concern about the injury, he replied: "Not according to our staff. But, you know, who knows? I don't know what to say. According to our staff, he was fine and ready to go and according to him as well. So it popped up today. I don't know if it's going to be long. It's not my expertise yet."

Given the resolve the Leafs have displayed all season, they'll have to find more of it now as the jockeying for playoff positions winds down to what will be an exciting finish in the Eastern Conference.

While Quinn cast blame for blowing a three-goal lead against the Sabres elsewhere - "I thought our defence wasn't very good tonight, muttering seconds later about "outnumbered rushes and poor coverage" - it now appears Kidd will have to start providing the consistent, winning level that is Belfour's trademark. Coming off shoulder surgery and out for the first two months of the season, Kidd hasn't seen a lot of game action, not with Belfour clearly the No. 1 guy and invariably so much on the line every game.

There have been times this season, especially on the road, where Kidd's provided the essentials to capably fill the role. But whether it's his fault or not, recently, particularly at Air Canada Centre, Kidd has been beaten for far too many goals, meaning the Leafs' offence has to be scoring four goals-and-up in order to sniff any points. And sometimes, like against the Sabres, four goals aren't enough.

True, the Leafs' defence left much to be desired against the Sabres. But when Buffalo's stampede looked to be gaining momentum, Hockey Night in Canada analyst Glenn Healy noted how the visitors were exploiting a deficiency in Kidd's lateral movement.

Allowing five goals and absorbing the loss against the Sabres in Kidd's 12th appearance of the season left his won-lost-tied record still a favourable looking 5-3-2 but it's the goals-against average (2.99) and save percentage (.890) that raise eyebrows.

The contrasting splits on Kidd look this way: Eight games on the road with seven starts, compiling a 4-0-2 record, 2.34 GAA and .917 SP; meanwhile made four appearances at home, all starts, where his record is 1-3-0 with a 4.27 GAA and .832 SP.

When asked about the possibility of Tellqvist playing, perhaps even as early as in the Leafs' next game at Pittsburgh, Quinn said: "It's possible, yeah."

Until Belfour returns for the lion's share of the goaltending load, it'll be up to the Kidd-Tellqvist combination to make sure winning hockey is maintained. If anything, it's Kidd, as No. 2 on the Leafs depth chart with No. 1 experience during other NHL stops, who - pardon the cliché - has his back to the wall right now. With no room for slip ups in a business where winning is everything, Kidd and, if need be, Tellqvist, must find a way to succeed like Belfour does ... and that is one mighty, pressure-packed assignment. " 
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