Rib problems stop Tucker

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

The next time Darcy Tucker is injured, it's probable he won't try to play through the pain.

Tucker, who has been nursing a rib muscle injury for some time, said yesterday he will be shutting himself down for the foreseeable future. When Tucker, the Leafs' leading goal-scorer, will return to the lineup is unclear.

"It's a setback, but I guess it is better that we let it heal and not put myself in position to not be able to play later on," Tucker said after the morning skate. "I would rather be playing in April than putting myself in jeopardy to be out for the remainder of the season. To keep giving it abuse would be to put it at risk of being worse down the road."

On the opposite end of the injury spectrum was fellow forward Nik Antropov. The big Kazakh returned last night versus the Phoenix Coyotes after missing 12 games because of a knee injury. Antropov had not played since getting hurt Dec. 12 against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Antropov could write a lengthy book on the experiences of missing large chunks of time because of various injuries.

"Sometimes I ask God or somebody who is out there, 'When is it going to stop?' " Antropov said. "It's not up to me. If it happens, I can't control it. Hopefully it's my last injury."

Tucker, who had played in 41 of the Leafs' previous 43 games this season, said before training camp he had set a goal of reaching 30 goals for the first time since he broke into the NHL for a three-game stint in the 1995-96 season. With 18, he is on the way, but he will be stuck there for a while.

Coach Pat Quinn expected Tucker would be placed on injured reserve and didn't think Tucker would make the Leafs' two-game trip to Colorado and Minnesota. The Leafs head out tonight for games against the Avalanche on Tuesday and the Wild on Wednesday.

"It was painful and he took medication to relieve some of the pain but that often wears off during the game and with any human being, you get a little apprehensive about when that hurt is going to come," Quinn said, referring to Tucker. "You know it is coming, so it affects how you do things."

Defenceman Bryan McCabe (groin) did not play last night and whether he goes west will be decided today. Eric Lindros (wrist) is at least a few weeks away.


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