Veteran center's future uncertain

Updated: May 6, 2004, 2:46 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- An undisclosed injury forced Toronto center Ron Francis to miss Game 6 of the Maple Leafs' playoff series against Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Without divulging the extent or nature of the injury, coach Pat Quinn said after Toronto's 3-2 overtime loss that Francis wasn't totally healthy. Quinn added that he didn't want Francis to get hurt further and have the Maple Leafs be down a forward.

``It was too risky,'' Quinn said.

Francis didn't speak to reporters, and his future is uncertain after the Flyers eliminated Toronto in Game 6 of their second-round series.

Francis, 41, played out the final year of his contract, and there are fears that next season might be disrupted by a labor dispute.

He waived his no-trade clause just before the NHL's dealing deadline in March, allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to send him to Toronto and give him a chance at his third Stanley Cup championship.

Francis ranks fourth on the NHL's career regular-season scoring list with 1,798 points, has added 143 in the playoffs during his 23 seasons.

Despite being 11th in playoff scoring among active players, Francis has just four assists in 12 games this year -- including two assists in this series against the Flyers.

Francis took part in the pregame skate earlier Tuesday.

Robert Reichel and Tom Fitzgerald, both scratched in Game 5, returned to action in Game 6. Clarke Wilm joined Francis out of the lineup after recording just one assist in five postseason games.

Fitzgerald sat out the previous three games and has no points in nine games this postseason for the Maple Leafs.

Reichel also had one assist while playing in Toronto's first 11 postseason games before sitting out Sunday.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE