Mats a big addition

Mats Sundin takes a breather yesterday during practice in Raleigh. (SUN/Craig Robertson)

Mats Sundin takes a breather yesterday during practice in Raleigh. (SUN/Craig Robertson)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Mathematicians know 13 is not easily divisible.

But Mats-ematicians such as Pat Quinn know the number has magical properties when sequenced correctly in the lineup.

So when Mats Sundin is added to the Maple Leafs tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- exactly a month after he damaged his left orbital bone -- the value of new linemates Jeff O'Neill and Alexei Ponikarovsky should multiply.

"Clearly, you're looking for some guys to help others," Quinn said yesterday after Sundin received final medical clearance to play in the Hall of Fame game. "It's what leaders do."

Newcomer O'Neill has scored in just two of 13 games this year, including a hat trick. But O'Neill has had 41 goals in a season. Ponikarovsky has just 14 in 127 National Hockey League games.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Ponikarovsky, who was on Sundin's right side coming out of camp, with Nik Antropov on the left. "I've been trying to skate hard in the past few games and take the puck to the net and create some chances for the guys on my line. We'll see how it goes."

Quinn claimed he put yesterday's lines together in a rush after Thursday's 4-3 loss in Carolina and might go another route against the Lightning.

But he couldn't bring himself to break up kids Matt Stajan and Alex Steen, who each had three-point nights against the Hurricanes flanking Jason Allison. Eric Lindros skated between Chad Kilger and Darcy Tucker yesterday.

"One of the things we've had is inconsistency from individuals," Quinn said of the club's herky-jerky start. "That's when you start to look at (breaking up) lines and what would prompt better play from individuals.

"I'd certainly like to have players who can complement Mats, but we have other centres we want to complement as well."

Checking centre Clarke Wilm missed practice yesterday with a sore foot from a blocked shot on Thursday, while Antropov remains on the shelf with a knee injury until at least Tuesday.

The Leafs don't need to send anyone down to the Marlies to keep within the 23-man limit.

Yes, the captain will be wearing a visor tonight and perhaps for the rest of the season, though despite the injury he obviously is not sold on it as a permanent fixture.

"I'll need it to protect the eye, for the next few weeks anyway," Sundin said. "When I look with both eyes, I'm not far off where I was before. My left vision is not as good as my right, but it's not where it's going to make a difference on the ice."

After he missed nine games with a foot injury in 1999, Sundin averaged a point a game and ended up leading the team in scoring again. This time, Bryan McCabe has a 15-point head start on him.

"I'll just go out and try to play the way I've played before," Sundin said.

"This has been frustrating, especially coming off a year with no hockey and (training hard) for the start of the year, then having to wait four weeks."


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