Return date for Tucker in dispute

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Just when will healing forward Darcy Tucker return to the Maple Leafs lineup?

The coach and his player seem to disagree about the answer.

Paul Maurice all but ruled out speculation that Tucker might play this weekend, stating that the feisty forward likely would be ready for contact by the middle of next week.

Informed of his coach's comments, Tucker smiled.

"We'll see," Tucker said, grinning wryly. "I'll talk to him in the next couple of days.

"As Alex Mogilny once said: 'You've got a better chance at a casino.' "

Tucker's teammates were glad to see him taking part in practice drills yesterday.

"I wouldn't say there was no contact," Tucker said. "Didn't you see me run (Tomas) Kaberle out there?"

The Leafs want to be cautious with Tucker, who suffered miniscule fractures in his left foot during a game against the Minnesota Wild back on Dec. 26. He did play against the Bruins on Jan. 1, but the return proved to be far too early.

"It was a bit sore out there today, but, for the most part, it felt good," he said.

Tucker understands how badly the fans want to see him back -- especially the poolies.

"I was waiting for a car to pick me up the other day when a guy said to me: "When will you be back? I have you in my pool and need the inside scoop."'

The Trainer's Room

Pavel Kubina joined his teammates on the ice yesterday although his fractured finger still does not allow him to stickhandle. In order to make holding the stick easier, however, the two end-fingers on his left glove have been sewn together. "I'm glad I'm able to skate but I'm not able to shoot yet," he said ... Forward Kyle Wellwood continues to aim for a mid-March return. "I felt good out there," said Wellwood, who has skated the past several days after undergoing hernia surgery five weeks ago. "Hopefully in another five or six days I can start practising."


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