Joseph hints at hurt hand

You have to hand it to Curtis Joseph. Not only does he keep pucks out of the net, he keeps secrets too.

Case in point, the hand injury he suffered in the Toronto Maple Leafs' sweep of the Ottawa Senators.

"It's taboo," said Joseph, grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

"You're not going to get anything."

Speculation about a possible injury surfaced at Saturday practice when Joseph tended goal without a stick.

Afterwards, when quizzed by a curious media, Joseph said, "Anything I say would be lying to you, so I won't say anything. It's kind of embarrasing."

NHL tradition bespeaks that nobody speak about injuries during the playoffs.

The stick was noticeable for its absence on Sunday and again Monday, until reappearing for clear-out drills on Tuesday.

Amid concern that stickhandling might pose a problem, Joseph used it several times to backhand pucks around the boards.

"He'll be fine," Maple Leafs head coach Pat Quinn said abruptly.

Joseph will have to be, if only because New Jersey, Toronto's second round opponent, was the highest-scoring team in the league during the regular season.

"They have a lot of skill, a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net," Joseph said of the Devils.

"They have one line that is real, real good. They have a good transition game also.

"They have a lot of weapons."

The defending Stanley Cup champions also boast the best power play, but the Leafs will counter with a penalty killing unit that went 16-for-16 against the Senators.

"Our penalty killing was a key to our success in the first round and if we're going to be successful in the second round, we're going to have good penalty killing again," Joseph said.

Failing that, there is always Joseph himself, who is 4-0 with a 0.71 goals-against average and .976 save percentage in this year's playoffs.

He not only held Ottawa scoreless for the first 223 minutes of the series, but allowed only three of 123 shots to get past him.

With an injured hand, no less.

"He's first in the league," Igor Korolev said. "We're not worried.

"If he stopped 120 shots from 123, I don't think there is a problem."

Added Joseph: "We were great defensively. There were no real lulls where we went for a nap and they were all over us.

"We were committed defensively for 60 or 70 minutes or whatever it took. We'll need much of the same in the second round."

But will it be enough to give Joseph and the Leafs the upper hand?.

"No comment on that," he said, still grinning.