Tucker's left hand is all right

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

A sore left hand didn't stop Darcy Tucker from giving the thumbs up last night when asked if he would be in the lineup against the Florida Panthers tomorrow.

Tucker woke up yesterday relieved to see that his ailing hand had not swelled significantly.

He wasn't the only one breathing easier at the news.

Losing the team's top goal-scorer was not a prospect the Maple Leafs hierarchy wanted to deal with, especially now that the once-wobbly blue-and-white ship appears righted.

Three consecutive wins, including a 9-2 crushing of the New York Rangers on Saturday, has brought a sense of holiday cheer to the Air Canada Centre, where nerves were a little frazzled not so long ago during the team's seven-game losing skid.

The turnaround, by no coincidence, has come hand-in-hand with the team's recent offensive explosion, one featuring 18 goals scored in the past three outings.

The Leafs hope the momentum continues when they host the Panthers, a game in which Tucker plans to play.

Plunked by a blistering shot off the stick of Brendan Shanahan on Saturday, Tucker sat out the third period in order to undergo x-rays. While no broken bones were found, Tucker admitted the real litmus test would come overnight when the hand had the opportunity to balloon.

Fortunately he passed with flying colours.

"We just wanted to make sure it didn't digress," Tucker said last night, just minutes after attending his son's hockey game. "Thankfully everything is good.

"It feels fine. There is just a bit of bruising, that's all."

Tucker easily could have avoided a lot of excruciating pain merely by stepping out of the way of Shanahan's blast. The game, after all, was one-sided in favour of the Leafs at that point.

But that simply is not Tucker's way.

"It was just a reaction," he said. "We are taught to block shots when we are killing penalties. You don't even think about what (the score is) at the time, you just do it."

At times this season the Leafs have relied heavily on Tucker and captain Mats Sundin to supply the offensive pop. On too many occasions the supporting cast just didn't pull its weight.

But that was not the case Saturday. With Tucker and Sundin combining for just one goal, Kyle Wellwood, Alexei Ponikarovsky, John Pohl and Carlo Colaiacovo picked up the scoring slack.

"We need that if we're going to win," Tucker said. "We need everyone going to have success, not just a few guys.

"We talk about that all the time."


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