Darcy Tuckers' return could be ahead of schedule by tomorrow's game against the Montreal Canadiens.
The wounded winger, plagued by a painful rib injury since Christmas, based his new optimism on a strong team workout yesterday morning, his first appearance with the Maple Leafs in almost two weeks. That sets up today's full-contact drills.
"They will be very important," said Tucker, still Toronto's leading scorer with 18 goals. "I want to get some contact in."
There were fears Tucker would be lost until at least the end of the Leafs' three-game southern U.S. trip next week. Tucker acknowledged that he's ahead of schedule, but despite a six-game losing streak before last night, don't expect coach Pat Quinn to cut corners reinstating him in the lineup.
Quinn already was wary of using Tucker on the Western trip where the injury first became inflamed.
Eric Lindros skated before the rest of the team yesterday, testing a new brace designed to let him play while the small tear in his right wrist ligament continues to heal.
"It's a different sort of brace to what he tried before. He has been given permission to do moderate exercises involving the wrist. I haven't talked to the doctors, but Eric indicates there is terrific improvement. The wrist is not functioning perfectly, but the issue I suppose would be pain (tolerance)."
Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo surfaced yesterday morning after suffering a concussion on Monday. An attempted body check went awry and he conked heads with Ottawa Senators' Vaclav Varada, then slammed into the boards and was out cold.
Colaiacovo was sporting two black eyes and a gash on his left cheek.
"I don't remember anything, it's a total blank, being on the stretcher and then waking up with four doctors around me," Colaiacovo said. "I'm still trying to put the pieces together."
As is the case with concussions, he was awakened every few hours through Monday night to make sure he was alert without complications.
"It was a scary moment," he said of the hit. "But it was good my parents could hear my voice on the phone afterwards."
After joking that he was ready to play last night, Colaiacovo headed to a specialist for a series of tests yesterday afternoon. Quinn would not venture a return date for him.
"He took a nasty whack, but it's nice to know he remembers how to laugh," the coach said.