Centre/winger Kyle Wellwood's rapid progress after hernia surgery should put him back in the lineup in time for tomorrow's rematch against the Senators, at least a game ahead of schedule.
"I would list him as highly possible," Leafs' coach Paul Maurice said yesterday.
Wellwood has not played since Dec. 19, when what was believed to be a groin problem was detected. He underwent an operation in January.
Wellwood had 31 points in 35 games and gives the Leafs another creative puck-handling forward. But deciding who comes out of the lineup will be the next challenge, with Boyd Devereaux and Wade Belak already moved to make room for Darcy Tucker.
It's unlikely the Leafs would use Wellwood and then dress both Travis Green and Yanic Perreault, also centres.
MAURICE CLIMBS CHARTS
Maurice, who became the 30th coach in NHL history to win 300 games earlier this week, has an outside shot at 40. Only Pat Quinn (45), Pat Burns (44) and Joe Primeau and Roger Neilson (41) recorded that number of victories in their first year behind Toronto's bench.
With 14 games remaining, the Leafs expect to stay in the race until Game 82. "Playoffs have started for us already," captain Mats Sundin said. "But we're comfortable with our team. We're finally getting some guys back. It's an exciting time. We'll try and win every game we can, but when we lose, we have to get right back on our feet." ... When Perreault and Tucker hit 20 goals on Tuesday, it marked the first time in 17 years that two Leafs reached that milestone in the same game. On Feb. 23, 1990, Vincent Damphousse and Mark Osborne hit 20, Damphousse as part of a hat trick ... There were some eyebrows raised when Sens' Jason Spezza was scratched against Pittsburgh earlier this week with a "freak" injury carrying groceries. But Spezza was laughing at the conspiracy theories yesterday as he prepared to face the Leafs. "Trust me, if I was lying I'd come up with a better story," he told the media.