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TORONTO -- Paul Martin withdrawing from the 2010 Olympics was a huge loss for Team USA, and the fear now is the Americans could lose another top blueliner in Mike Komisarek.
The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman skated hard in practice Tuesday, and was one of the last players off the ice at Air Canada Centre. But it will all likely come down to one last medical test with doctors Wednesday. His Olympic dreams hang in the balance.
"I'm itching, I want to get in there," Komisarek, sweat pouring down his brow, said after the pregame skate. "Just waiting for that approval. I've got one more test tomorrow. I'm looking forward to not only helping the Leafs again, but obviously with the Olympics coming, you definitely need 4-5 games to get in there and feel comfortable and confident and be ready to go."
Komisarek has been sidelined since Jan. 2 with a suspected shoulder injury. He's avoided surgery so far, with the hope rehab will be enough for him. He'll find out Wednesday.
"I have jump, I want to play," said Komisarek. "I just need the final clearance from the doctors."
"According to what the doctor said, he had an injury that could be normally 4-6 weeks and we're on four weeks now," Leafs and Team USA coach Ron Wilson said Tuesday. "So we just have to do some testing tomorrow and see if the rehab is working properly."
Komisarek still has hope, Martin does not. The talented Devils blueliner, out since Oct. 24 with a broken arm, had to pull out from the Olympic team Monday. He had promised Team USA if he wasn't back playing for 4-5 games and at a top level, he wouldn't take a roster spot. He was true to his word, but talk about a brutal decision to make.
"I'm very disappointed for him," Devils teammate and Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner said after New Jersey's morning skate here Tuesday. "It's something that I'm sure he's going to have lots of regrets about for a long time."
It's the situation Komisarek now faces in the next day or so.
"It's never an easy thing," said Komisarek. "With that much at stake, obviously you want to be 100 percent going into something like that. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. You don't have many chances to represent your country on the Olympic stage. You do everything you can to prepare yourself, but at the end of it, you want to make sure you're 100 percent and you're not taking somebody else's spot."
Martin, when healthy, was looking like the best blueliner for Team USA. It's a big hole to fill.
"We lose, had he played all season long, our most reliable defenseman, I would think. He can play in every situation," said Wilson.
"He was picked basically without playing all year and that's because he's a great player," said Langenbrunner. "... It just shows how highly he's thought of. It definitely hurts [losing him]. It'll give someone else and opportunity, though, and the one thing now with USA Hockey is that they do have some depth and some guys that in the past might have been harder to find to fill in."
I suspect Ryan Whitney of the Anaheim Ducks is the most logical replacement for Martin, a puck-mover for a puck-mover. If the bruiser Komisarek is out, my money would be on Tim Gleason of the Carolina Hurricanes, Ron Hainsey of the Atlanta Thrashers or Rob Scuderi of the Los Angeles Kings.
Team USA GM Brian Burke was slated to discuss Martin's replacement and possibly Komisarek's situation with the rest of his management team either later Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Leafs have four games left before the Olympics. Komisarek has to play in all four, in my mind, to keep his Olympic roster spot. And that means getting cleared by docs Wednesday. Talk about a stressful 24 hours.
"As a young hockey player, you dream about winning the Stanley Cup and you dream about winning a gold medal and representing your country in the Olympics," said Komisarek. "Being a proud American hockey player, we all witnessed and watched it many times with the "Miracle On Ice". This being the 30-year anniversary of that, you want to part of that. But at the same time, my priority and responsibility is to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have a long-term commitment here. My long-term health is more important to this team than just having my selfish reasons to play in the Olympics, as much as I want to go."
Martin no longer has to worry about that.
"I'm sure he's devastated about the situation he's in, especially for a broken bone to be out so long," said Devils teammate and Team Canada goalie Martin Brodeur. "It's tough. He's in the last year of his contract, there's the Olympics. It was a big year for him. Now it's been altered big time. "Hopefully he'll come back healthy and give us a great push for the end of the season."