Three white knights appeared at practice yesterday and could soon be coming to rescue the sinking Maple Leafs.
Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe and Eric Lindros were at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday, all wearing the snowy sweaters that marked them as injured players. Top-scoring forward Tucker is a possibility for the game against the Montreal Canadiens tonight, while he and No. 1 defenceman/leading points man McCabe both plan to play on the three-game swing through the southern U.S. next week.
The duo's imminent return comes with news of another casualty on defence, a rib injury to veteran Aki Berg that will sideline him a few games.
The Leafs recalled Jay Harrison from the Marlies yesterday for his first National Hockey League test after a four-year minor-league apprenticeship for the Oshawa resident. Harrison had just climbed off the minor-league bus in Manchester, N.H., late Thursday after a 12-hour ride when he was recalled, flying back early yesterday.
"(Berg's rib) is not broken, but there is some stretching in there," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "There was probably a displacement and they popped it back in. I don't have a (return) time on him. It's the same situation that troubled him in training camp."
Tucker, also nursing sore ribs, was a bit more cautious about jumping back into the lineup than he was on Thursday, no doubt calculating that the extra two days rest might be the prudent course.
"We have to be in tune with our medical staff to be sure we can consider Darcy's entreaties to go back in," Quinn said, wary of letting him play hurt again.
But the urge to get all hands back to halt a seven-game losing streak is tempting.
"Certain guys in your lineup weather those storms better than others," Quinn said. "Darcy is one of our leaders."
It was McCabe's first practice since a minor groin tear was detected after a Jan. 7 game in Edmonton, coinciding with the team slump.
"It was all out, positive signs with no setbacks," McCabe said. "As long as there is no stiffness, hopefully I can go Monday (against the Florida Panthers) or Tuesday (in Tampa).
"Groin injuries are a big issue now (in the NHL) and something you can't rush. But you know your own body and as far as I can tell, it feels good."
Lindros, wearing a new brace to support a healing ligament tear in his right wrist, at least was able to flip pucks yesterday, but isn't expected back until February.
"I'm looking forward to (shooting) next week," he said. "It's back to basics now, back to hockey school."