Leaf 'a lot better'

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

TORONTO -- Kyle Wellwood dipsy-doodled his way around the Air Canada Centre ice surface yesterday, gingerly testing his hip flexor ailment to see how it would stand up.

Most of his teammates had already finished their morning skate when Wellwood appeared for his so-called test drive, catching many observers off-guard.

Wellwood had gone through this routine four days earlier, and the results were not good. He felt significant discomfort during his skate Tuesday, leaving the young forward frustrated about the lack of progress.

Yesterday was a far different story. Wellwood was encouraged by the improvement, so much so that he hopes to return as early as "next week."

"It was a lot better," he said. "I just had some minor discomfort but it's definitely something I can work through within the week. I think next week I'll be at 100%."

OUT SIX GAMES

Wellwood has now missed six consecutive games after sitting out last night's tilt against the rival Ottawa Senators.

"Judging by the way I felt out there, I feel I could play (against the Sens)," he said. "But it's one of those things where I'm not in 100% game shape. It's only one skate, and you don't want to go out there and get hurt all over again."

During his stint on the sidelines, Wellwood has caught wind of the speculation circulating around the city that his injury might be much more serious than originally thought. There have been suggestions that it could be like the groin injury that has kept Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik out of action for the past two months.

"I've heard some horror stories about it for sure," Wellwood said. "We've been very careful about it. The treatments have been going great. I'm not going to push it too hard until I know its feeling a lot better.

"I pretty much could do anything out there. It was fine. It's just when I take a full hard stride from a standstill, well, that's when you can hurt yourself. I didn't do that today. That's the hurdle I've got to get over."

Meanwhile Darcy Tucker, sporting a blue bandage on his left foot, missed his second consecutive game and refused to offer a prediction about his possible return.

"I have no idea," he said. "It's still sore. We'll take it day by day from here on in.

"I tried skating (Friday) and when you can't skate, you can't play. When I can skate again I'll be back in the lineup."


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