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Defenceman Pavel Kubina set to return to Maple Leafs lineup on Thursday

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Czech defenceman's wife, Andrea, is scheduled to give birth to the couple's first child in the next week and he's looking more forward to that than his impending return to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.

"It's my first child and you don't know what to expect," the soon-to-be father said after practice on Monday.

Kubina collided awkwardly with Florida's Todd Bertuzzi during the fourth game of the season and was diagnosed with a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Doctors expected him to be out of the lineup for as long as six weeks, but it will have been slightly more than four when he returns Thursday for Toronto's game in Boston.

He attributes the quick return to the team's strength specialists and his own hard work. Kubina started riding a stationary bike two days after suffering the injury.

It wasn't exactly the way he planned on spending his first month as a Maple Leaf after signing a US$20-million, four-year contract with the team over the summer.

"It's been a long four weeks for me," said Kubina. "It's so hard to watch the team and not be able to do anything.

"The time has passed and hopefully I will come back and help the team."

Also skating with the Maple Leafs on Monday was defenceman Staffan Kronwall, who is getting closer to returning from his ankle injury.

The status of those two players will leave GM John Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice with some decisions to make. Brendan Bell, in his first season on the Leafs blue-line, says he hasn't heard if the impending returns will impact his status with the team.

Nor does he expect to.

"We don't have to be talked to about every situation," said Bell. "We're in a team game and whoever's going to help the team and whoever's going to contribute the most is going to play.

"If you're playing well, you're going to stay in the lineup."

Kubina is "100 per cent" certain he'll play on Thursday night against the Bruins.

After missing the first game of the season because of a suspension, he got into the next three games before suffering his injury. The Maple Leafs were 2-0-1 with him in the lineup.

Kubina has been watching the games since on a television in the Leafs dressing room while riding a stationary bike. It's turned him into a fan as he's found himself cheering aloud during games.

Like many of the team's supporters, he was thrilled on Saturday night while watching the Leafs beat the red-hot Buffalo Sabres 4-1.

"It's a lot of fun when you see games like that - even when you don't play," he said.

Kubina arrived in Toronto after eight seasons in Tampa Bay, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2004. He was a popular member of the Lightning but couldn't resist the chance to play in a traditional hockey market.

Even though he hasn't been able to play much so far this year, No. 73 feels at home in Toronto.

"The guys, they've been good to me," said Kubina. "It's a lot of fun around here."

He'll be wearing a knee brace when he's finally back in the lineup and wore a wide smile while speaking to reporters for nearly 10 minutes on Monday.

It's an exciting time for Kubina and he's clearly thrilled about all that is happening.

"I've been playing hockey since (I was) six years old," he said. "Pretty much I spend every day at the rink.

"I love this game. (I've got a) family and hockey, that's pretty much what all my focus is on. That's my life - family and hockey."


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