Tucker the Leafs' 'fireplug'

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

TAMPA -- Darcy Tucker's pre-season goal was to hit the 30 mark.

As in goals.

Not stitches.

Having already scored 21 times, Tucker is on pace to exceed his expectations. As for sealing up all those facial gashes, we've lost count of the number of incidents in which he has been sliced open.

The point is, Darcy Tucker is always at the centre of the action.

Since coming back to the Maple Leafs lineup from a rib injury, Tucker has scored in three consecutive games, banged up his knee and taken two high sticks to the face.

More importantly, the Leafs have registered at least one point in each outing since Tucker's return, a reflection of what the team's emotional trendsetter brings to the table.

"He has been a fireplug and a leader for us,"coach Pat Quinn said. "This year he has made big scoring plays for us which hasn't particularly been an asset. His assets in the past have been more with his contact, his emotion. That's still present, but he has added a touch and made big plays for us"

Despite his modest success recently, Tucker dismisses the notion that his team has turned the corner. A win, shootout defeat and overtime loss is nothing to get excited about, he said.

"We've been a good playoff team for four or five years and we expect that of ourselves now," Tucker said. "To get back to where we want and need to be, we need everyone at their best on every given night. Right now we're struggling to find our way. But we have to find way to get points and wins."

Tucker credits part of his offensive success to a new stick he is using from Trilage, a U.S. company.

"They tailored it for me. I really like the way it comes off my stick," he said.

Suddenly, thanks to his goal-scoring flash, fans are talking more about Tucker's play and not about his so-called theatrics.

"People's opinion of me are obviously going to vary from person to person," Tucker said.

"I just try to play hard. I value being on this hockey club. I value being in the playoffs. I expect to be one of the leaders on this hockey club and get us there."


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