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A converted forward might be needed to help the Toronto Maple Leafs defense move forward.
With Pavel Kubina out four to six weeks with a knee injury, Wade Belak will likely revert to defense Thursday when the injury-riddled Maple Leafs head to New Jersey for the Devils' home opener.
Kubina suffered a strained knee ligament after a collision with Florida forward Todd Bertuzzi. Kubina had to be helped off the ice late in the third period of Toronto's 2-1 shootout victory Monday over the Panthers.
"It is frustrating, but there's nothing I can do," said Kubina, who signed a $20-million, four-year deal with Toronto (2-1-1) in the offseason.
The good news for Kubina and the Maple Leafs is that the injury will not require surgery, which would have kept him out of the lineup longer. But he's the most significant player on an ever-growing list of injured Maple Leafs defensemen, joining Andrew Wozniewski (shoulder), Carlo Colaiacovo (head), Staffan Kronwall (ankle) and Brenden Bell (foot).
Bell is closest to returning among those players. He skated alone with assistant coach Keith Acton before practice Wednesday and later joined the rest of the team for their skate, but he is not expected to return until Saturday's game against the Calgary Flames.
Belak, who started the season at forward, was back on defense in practice Wednesday with Jay Harrison as his partner and will likely be there for Thursday's game.
"I'm comfortable with Belak on the blue-line," said coach Paul Maurice, who doesn't want to rush any of his injured defenseman back.
Kyle Wellwood, who is tied for second in the NHL with six points, scored Toronto's lone goal in regulation Monday. Mats Sundin, who is three goals shy of 500 for his career, and Darcy Tucker scored in the shootout.
The Maple Leafs continued to struggle with the man advantage. They went 0-for-6 on the power play Monday and are 3-for-23 for the season.
New Jersey (1-1-0) will be trying to beat Toronto at home for the first time in nearly three years. The Devils' last home win against the Maple Leafs was on Jan. 3, 2003, when they came away with a 2-0 victory. New Jersey is 0-2-2 at home Toronto since then.
The Devils lost all four meetings against the Maple Leafs last season, and have lost five straight to them overall. New Jersey's last win in the series was a 1-0 victory Jan. 10, 2004, in Toronto.
The Devils are playing for the first time since a 3-1 loss Saturday to the Dallas Stars. They beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 on Friday in their season opener.
"The positive is we split against two of the best teams in the league," New Jersey right wing Jamie Langenbrunner said. "The negative is we didn't play very well (in Dallas). We've got to be effective on the power play. For some reason we got sloppy and made some mistakes we normally don't make."
Rookie center Travis Zajac brought the Devils within a goal Saturday, but they could not complete the rally. With occasional bursts of brilliance, the 21-year-old Zajac scored his first NHL goal and came close to adding another with the game on the line in the third period.
"I think he's here because we feel he's going to be a good player," New Jersey coach Claude Julien said. "We've got to give him time to grow into his role."
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