Aching to play

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Darcy Tucker hates watching his team in the throes of a losing streak. And it is especially difficult because he can do nothing to help.

Tucker, the leading Maple Leafs goal scorer with 18, went for a light skate yesterday but acknowledged the timetable for his return from a rib injury remains uncertain.

"We have no clue (about when he will be back)," Tucker said in a telephone interview. "It's killing me (that he can't play). But if I don't take the time to rest now, it's something that will continue to bother me."

Tucker has been out since Jan. 10, missing the past three games. He will miss a crucial two-game set in Ottawa against the Senators tomorrow and Monday. And as if the hockey gods wanted to be sure of giving the Senators another leg up on the Leafs, centre Jason Spezza returned last night against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim after missing 12 of the past 13 games with a pulled chest muscle. Prior to the game last night, Spezza had 48 points (13 goals and 35 assists) in 31 games.

FEELS GOOD

In four games against the Leafs this season, the 22-year-old Toronto native has three goals and seven assists.

"It feels good," Spezza told reporters at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa after the morning skate yesterday."I wouldn't be back in there if there was any chance I was going to re-injure it. The last time I came back (versus the Atlanta Thrashers on Jan. 2) I was trying to play while I was hurt. It didn't feel right and I just wanted to see if I could play with it. This time, I feel 100%."

The Leafs can only wish they could get an integral player back for their mini-series in Ottawa. But Tucker, top defenceman Bryan McCabe (groin) and centre Eric Lindros (wrist) will remain on the outside looking in.

Defenceman Alexander Khavanov, who was injured against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, had X-rays on his ribs and is hopeful of playing in Ottawa at some point.

"You get injuries to some key players and it's tough when not everybody is healthy," Tucker said of the Leafs' skid. "We just have to go into Ottawa and try to get some points."


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