Tucker may return ... or not

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

The swelling in Darcy Tucker's left foot kept him out of the Maple Leafs lineup for the team's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning last night.

"He would like to go but he knows it is the right decision," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said.

There's a chance, however, that Tucker will suit up tomorrow night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins in the Leafs' last game prior to the all-star break.

It depends whether the swelling goes down enough to give him proper comfort to play. Maurice said he would not keep Tucker, who was injured Dec. 26 against the Minnesota Wild and already rushed back once, out of the lineup tomorrow if he was ready. Maurice said the final decision would be in the hands of the Leafs' training staff and doctors.

Tucker had hinted earlier this week that if he could not play last night, he would forgo tomorrow as well and get more rest during the all-star break. But Maurice made it clear Tucker will play if cleared.

Tucker suffered small bone fractures in his foot when he was hit by shot. He played Jan. 1 against the Boston Bruins but has missed seven games since.

MARTIN TONES IT DOWN

Florida Panthers coach Jacques Martin was not pleased with the refereeing after his club's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

"It's not just one night," Martin said Wednesday. "I could accept it last year, because we were a much slower defensive team. This year, however, we're not."

Martin, who had a conversation with NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom, was not so testy yesterday.

"It's a tough job and it happens quick out there," Martin said of refereeing. "But I think a lot of players are diving and that makes it difficult. That's not part of the game and it is disrespectful."

Before last night, the Panthers had been shorthanded 270 times, the most in the NHL. But they had 208 power plays, the second-fewest in the league.

NO INTRODUCTION NEEDED

A pair of former Leafs sat together in the press box last night. Panthers forward Gary Roberts, out with a groin injury, was joined by close friend Joe Nieuwendyk, who retired last month.


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