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09-27-2003, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by TR-TWѤ
I'm a little surprised Chartier is there and not Bell.
From his perch in the Corel Centre press box, former Ottawa 67's captain Brendan Bell must have stared down at the ice and wondered what might have been.

Longing to suit up in the city in which he starred at the junior hockey level, the young defenceman instead found himself dressed in civvies for the Maple Leafs' 2-0 pre-season loss to the Ottawa Senators last night.

And the news likely will not get any better tonight when Bell, 20, is expected to be among the 16 or so cuts made at the conclusion of the Leafs-Sens rematch at Mile One Stadium in St. John's.

"Nothing is official," Bell said when asked if talk of his impending demotion was true.

Maybe not. But it will take a rash of injuries or a last-minute change of heart by the Maple Leafs brass for Bell not to start the season in St. John's.

Whispers concerning Bell's apparent fate were widespread throughout the Ottawa dressing room after the Senators' morning skate yesterday.

Meanwhile, back in Toronto, forward Gary Roberts, during an interview with Mojo radio, acknowledged that Bell had been sent down.

Yet, Leafs general manager John Ferguson refused to confirm the reports, saying "that decision had yet to be made."

Asked about Bell's camp, he replied: "He's been okay, nothing outstanding."

Added Ferguson: "I've never seen the AHL hurt a young defenceman."

"I won't know anything until (tonight), but I think I've had a good camp," Bell said. "I think I can fit in at this level."

With coach Pat Quinn poised to trim his roster, Bell's potential pain will be a significant gain for European youngsters Pierre Hedin and Maxim Kondratiev who, along with Ric Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jamie Pushor, seemingly have one less candidate to worry about in their respective bids to land a spot with the parent club.

Another player vying to stay in that mix is defenceman Christian Chartier, who believes he will avoid Quinn's axe and return to Toronto tonight.

Colaiacovo, meanwhile, continues to look better with every outing. Coming off a groin injury that hampered him for much of the Leafs training camp in Scandinavia, he appears to be gaining strength and is returning to the sleek-skating form that wowed the Toronto brass during camp last fall.

"This definitely is the best I've felt," Colaiacovo, 20, said. "It's really coming along."

So, too, is forward Matt Stajan, who will remain with Toronto for at least another week.

"He's done very well," Quinn said. "He might have been our best player out there tonight."

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