Bell circles Nov. 6 for return

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:44 AM ET

Mark Bell appears to be one step closer to a return to the NHL.

The Maple Leafs have received indications that doctors likely will recommend his reinstatement from Stage 2 of the Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health program of the NHL and NHLPA by tomorrow.

Should that be the case, Bell could begin serving his NHL-levied 15-game suspension tomorrow night against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre.

Under that scenario, he would be eligible to make his Leafs debut Nov. 6 against those same Sens at Scotiabank Place.

"Our expectations of Mark being cleared from Stage 2 and being reinstated are high," general manager John Ferguson said last night.

The NHL will issue an official release at the time of Bell's reinstatement from the program, although a league source did say last night that officials are "expecting" the doctors to give Bell the green light.

Under the terms of the SABH program, a player who is convicted of a controlled-substance offence (including under a plea arrangement or similar procedure), is assessed by the program doctors and staged appropriately.

Bell recently pleaded no contest in California to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and hit-and-run.

By reason of his Stage 2 placement, Bell is suspended without pay until reinstated for on-ice competition by the program doctors after consultation with the NHL and NHLPA.

The program's doctors, Dr. Brian Shaw on behalf of the NHLPA and Dr. Dave Lewis on behalf of the NHL, have been administering Bell's care.

HOME COOKIN'

With eight of the team's first 10 games on home ice, captain Mats Sundin finds it imperative the Leafs improve their play at the ACC.

"We have to make it a tough place for teams to come in. We got off to a slow start here a year ago and didn't really play well here until after the all-star break. It may have cost us a playoff spot."

The Leafs were well below .500 on home ice before reeling off nine consecutive wins at the ACC to finish the season.


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