Tucker tests injured foot

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Darcy Tucker couldn't pass up the option.

The Maple Leafs winger, with nearly all of his teammates taking advantage of coach Paul Maurice's call for an optional practice yesterday, managed to skate for five minutes on his own at the Air Canada Centre.

It was the first time Tucker was on skates since rushing back into the lineup on Jan. 1 against the Boston Bruins after suffering hairline fissures in his left foot on Boxing Day versus the Minnesota Wild.

"It feels better, and I'm still having some discomfort there," Tucker said in an otherwise empty dressing room. "We will take it day by day from here on in. You can't fool around with it. I tried to do it earlier (against the Bruins) and made it worse."

Tucker will not play tonight against the Vancouver Canucks, but said a return Tuesday in Tampa versus the Lightning or Thursday in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers might happen. Of the myriad of injured Leafs, Tucker is bound to be the second back.

The first should be winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, who suffered a separated left shoulder in practice on Dec. 21. It's possible he could play tonight. Along with Nik Antropov (ankle), Aleksander Suglobov (back), Andy Wozniewski (shoulder), the well-rested Travis Green and backup goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Ponikarovsky was on the ice with assistant coach Randy Ladouceur.

Ponikarovsky said he was "almost ready" and would see how he felt after the morning skate today. "There is an outside chance," Maurice said. "If he comes in, it would be on the fourth line and he would play in the eight-minute to 12- minute range. I would say he is questionable."

With his players falling around him, Maurice revealed he thought hard a few weeks ago about resorting to the trap to get through. Countless observers are thankful it did not get past the planning stage.

"There are two reasons we didn't do it," Maurice said. "I don't think we are built to sit back in somewhat of a passive game. And it is not the game I believe you win with."

Maurice has been happy with callups Boyd Devereaux, Kris Newbury and Ben Ondrus.

AGGRESSIVE FORECHECKING

Under Greg Gilbert with the Toronto Marlies, they were taught the same kind of aggressive forechecking system and might not have adapted well (along with the regular Leafs) had Maurice changed tactics.

No matter how well those filling in perform, they will not impede the regulars from reclaiming their roster spots.

"You don't lose your job to injury," Maurice said. "But you can lose some minutes. I think this will be the truth for the rest of the year -- we are not going to try to get anybody going. We are going to play the guys we think are playing."


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