Forwards are 'under evaluation'

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:35 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were missing Mats Sundin but Joe Nieuwendyk played in Game 5 of their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators.

"I don't know what the chances are. Neither one is 100 percent at this point, so we'll have to see," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said Thursday. "All I know is that both are still under evaluation. Both are questionable, I would say."

Nieuwendyk returned home with a sore back before the Maple Leafs' 4-1 loss in Ottawa on Wednesday, which tied the series at 2-2. Sundin left in the third period with a left leg injury.

Both players skipped practice Thursday.

Asked whether there was any chance he'll play Friday, Nieuwendyk said: "Absolutely. I feel better. We'll see how it goes."

Said Senators goalie Patrick Lalime: "They're both key players, [but] you've got to approach it like they're in there."

Gary Roberts said that if the two stalwarts can't play, then the other players will have to pick up the slack and prove the team's toughness, according to a Toronto Sun report.

"We have to look at it as a challenge," Roberts told the paper, "and we have to rise above it."

He said that although the injury to "our best player" in Sundin is a cruel blow, the Leafs have persevered in the face of similar trouble in the past -- specifically in 2002. "Two years ago, we played through the injuries and advanced to the conference final."

In the present, however, losing its two biggest goal scorers could be a tremendous obstacle for Toronto's offense, which scored just seven goals in the first four games.

Roberts suggested to the Sun that getting more traffic in front of the Ottawa goal and playing "a simpler game" would help.

"We haven't played as good as we can play," he said. "We're fortunate we're 2-2. Eddie [goalie Ed Belfour, who has two shutouts] has given us a chance. We just hope we have enough left in the tank."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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