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Yushkevich bites the bullet // Toronto Sun
Busted toes won't keep tough Russian defenceman from his appointed duties
By TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun
Dmitry Yushkevich woke up yesterday morning in such pain he was sure he wouldn't play tonight against the New York Rangers, let alone practice yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena.
Yushkevich suffered two broken toes on his right foot when he blocked an Al MacInnis slapshot during a 6-5 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night, and missed the Maple Leafs' 6-4 win against the Islanders in New York on Thursday.
The Leafs face the New York Rangers tonight at Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., CBC, Talk 640 AM) and Yushkevich could be in the lineup.
On the drive to practice yesterday, Yushkevich said his toes were so painful he had to take off his right shoe. But when he got to the rink, Leafs equipment manager Brian Papineau had doctored the skate, taking out some padding so Yushkevich could wear it without much pain.
"If I feel the same (today), I'll play," Yushkevich said. "The bottom line is if I can put my foot in the skate, I will play. I tied up the laces and I felt much better."
On Oct. 14, 1997, in a game against the Detroit Red Wings, Yushkevich broke the same two toes and missed five games. When he was hit by MacInnis' shot during the second period on Wednesday, he knew immediately he was in trouble.
"I didn't see the puck coming, but it was painful," Yushkevich said. "I turned to (goaltender Curtis Joseph) and said, 'Cujo, I have broken toes.' "
With Cory Cross already out with a nagging muscle pull in his right hip, the Leafs called up defenceman Nathan Dempsey from St. John's for the game against the Islanders.
Yushkevich's teammates and Leafs general manager/coach Pat Quinn had to rub their eyes to believe the Russian defenceman was even on the ice yesterday.
"He's amazing," Quinn said. "He wanted to go out for practice and see how it felt, and he stayed out the whole time. His pain threshold must be amazing."
Not that playing hurt is anything new for Yushkevich. He has put up with various aches and pains in several instances in his career, and has been at or near the top of the league in shots blocked by a defenceman this season.
Yushkevich, who will wear extra padding on the outside of his right skate if he dresses tonight, shrugged when asked why it is he doesn't shy away from pain.
"People have mentioned that I have a high pain tolerance," Yushkevich said. "But I never think about it."
It certainly doesn't go unnoticed in the dressing room.
"When he came here from Philadelphia (in a trade with the Flyers on Aug. 30, 1995) we called him the 'Terminator,' " right winger Tie Domi said. "He was a warrior then. He's a different breed, a rock."
Yushkevich wasn't the lone topic when questions turned to injuries. A frustrated Cross said his muscle pull is back to where it was when it kept him out of five games earlier last month.
"It's weak so we've been trying to strengthen the muscle," Cross said. "I want to make sure that when I come back, I can stay in the lineup."
Cross, who said he is day to day, aggravated the injury against the Ottawa Senators last Saturday and hasn't played since.
Steve Thomas, who did not take part in the morning skate on Wednesday, missed practice yesterday as well.
"I've got a bit of a sore knee, so we just wanted to take care of it and be ready for (the Rangers)," Thomas said.
Quinn said whether Yushkevich and Thomas play tonight would be game-time