Call him Captain Invincible

LANCE HORNBY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Modest Mats Sundin didn't want to dwell on his amazing recuperative powers, so fellow Swede Mikael Tellqvist offered his own theory.

"He probably adds a couple of weeks (in projected injury time) to get conversation going around here with the media," Tellqvist said with a wink.

"He's always been tough enough to play through injuries; probably the longest time he was gone was with his (broken orbital bone last October). But a lot of guys bear down through injuries, not just Swedes. That's why they make it to the NHL and some guys don't."

Sundin beat the doctor's timetable again last night, returning to the lineup 19 days after tearing an elbow ligament. A three-to-four week layoff was projected for the 35-year-old Maple Leafs' captain. Is there something magical in the waters of the Baltic Sea perhaps?

"I don't know," Sundin said. "We've always had a history of good medical staffs around here. It's been a good environment to heal in, I guess.

"This team has had a lot of history with serious injuries the past four or five years and we've found a way. That makes it easier for everyone concerned, including the guys who are trying to get back in the lineup."

Centre Matt Stajan says Sundin always pushes himself hard in rehab, behind the team trainer's door.

"You want him back fast as possible and he does everything he can to come back earlier," Stajan said. "He kept up his conditioning, getting bag skated every day, making sure that when he did return, he could step in and play a lot of minutes."

LUCKY BREAK

Thanks to a break in the NHL schedule, the Leafs played just seven games with Sundin out, compiling a record of 4-2-1.

Despite that good showing, winger Jeff O'Neill was not going to tell Sundin to take his time coming back.

"The New York Yankees are pretty happy when Derek Jeter gets back from an injury and it's the same for the Leafs," O'Neill said.

"When you get one of the top three or four players in the world back in your lineup, it doesn't hurt.

"Some of the young guys stepped up and played great hockey, as did (Sundin's wingers) Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Stajan played very well, too.

"To have a good team you have to have guys who can step up when people get hurt."


Videos

Photos