Peca back on blades

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Michael Peca likely won't play a game unless the Leafs make the playoffs, but he reached a major milestone yesterday in his recovery from a broken right leg.

The 32-year-old worked out for 25 minutes yesterday at the Air Canada Centre in a track suit, but was able to put weight on the leg and shoot the puck.

"I had to fight the doctor to skate," Peca said with a laugh. "I was able to go straight away as fast and as hard as I want, turn over both ways and do figure eights, so I was pretty happy."

His recent x-rays have been encouraging.

"The bone has healed and you can barely see any trace of the fracture," he said. "The MCL has just about healed perfectly I was able to do a lot of things today that I didn't think I'd be able to do. I know there are certain things I can't do because my knee isn't strong enough yet.

"Now it's a matter of progressing to the point where I can withstand contact and feel comfortable on the ice."

But an exact return date remains cloudy. General manager John Ferguson had a conservative guess at sometime around the first round of the playoffs. That would be the second week of April, with Peca optimistic he can beat that by a few days.

"As next week progresses, I should get a clearer picture," he said. "I hadn't skated in two months, so just to get the blades on felt good. At the end of the day, my feet hurt more than anything."

Paul Maurice was elated at Peca's presence.

"It's a great sign for us," the coach said. "He looked good going in straight lines and that's step No. 1."

LOOSE LEAFS

Defenceman Tomas Kaberle continues a slow, but steady, recovery from a concussion suffered eight days ago. "He passed the first bike ride with flying colours, had the second one and there was no fallback," Maurice reported yesterday....Darcy Tucker has 19 two-goal games, the fifth-most among active NHLers still seeking their first hat trick. "I could've had at least three tonight," said Tucker, who says his timing is coming back after two months on the shelf. "I could tell going into overtime there was a sense of urgency on the bench that we needed the extra point" ... The Leafs' 45 shots last night were their most since a 3-2 overtime loss to Ottawa on Dec. 30.


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