Nieuwendyk 'getting better every day'

Updated: May 6, 2004, 2:52 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- Maple Leafs center Joe Nieuwendyk will sit out Game 3 of Toronto's second-round playoff series with Philadelphia on Wednesday night, the second straight game he'll miss because of back problems.

Nieuwendyk, who leads Toronto with five playoff goals, skated Wednesday for the first time since Game 1 of the series last Thursday.

"I'm getting better every day," Nieuwendyk said. "I think tomorrow I'll get a practice in and step it up a little bit and then go from there."

The Leafs, who host Game 4 on Friday, trail the best-of-seven series 2-0.

Clarke Wilm took Nieuwendyk's place in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday. But Leafs coach Pat Quinn is considering shuffling his lineup by going with gritty forward Wade Belak, who has yet to play this postseason.

The Leafs, who have just two goals against the Flyers, could certainly use Nieuwendyk, who's scored almost a third of Toronto's 16 playoff goals.

Philadelphia defenseman Kim Johnsson could return for Game 4, coach Ken Hitchcock said. Johnsson is considered doubtful for Wednesday and missed the first two games of the series with a broken bone in his right hand.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press