Wellwood ahead of schedule

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Who needs to make a big splash on the trade market when the Maple Leafs' most significant additions might already be in house?

Hours before the NHL's trade deadline arrived at 3 p.m. yesterday, healing forwards Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker were out on the Air Canada Centre ice surface working their way back to an eventual return to the Toronto lineup.

Since neither player has suited up for game action in almost two months, the Leafs claim their respective comebacks will be like obtaining two key cogs in deals.

While Tucker has tested out his injured left foot for several days now, yesterday's skate was a key moment for Wellwood.

The young forward has been out of the lineup since Dec. 19 and underwent surgery for a sports hernia exactly five weeks ago from yesterday.

It was the first time Wellwood, 23, had been on blades since going under the knife.

"It was pretty exciting to be back out on the ice again," a beaming Wellwood said. "It has been a really long time, but I felt good out there.

"I am not supposed to do any hard skating but that's tough not to do."

Wellwood received the green light from doctors Monday night to return to the ice. He plans on "5-10 days of light skating, then, hopefully, I can get back into practice.

"I've been told I'm ahead of schedule."

Wellwood feels he and Tucker can give the Leafs a shot in the arm.

"I think we've been out so long, I think we definitely could provide a boost to our special teams."

Tucker, meanwhile, could be back in action as early as this weekend when the Leafs have back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres.

While that timetable might be a bit optimistic, Tucker understandably is on Cloud 9 these days after agreeing to a three-year, $12-million contract US extension.


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