Bell set to toll on bubble players

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

NEW YORK -- The last bus leaving the rink the morning of a road game is for those Maple Leafs either injured or scratched. Lately, it's filling up fast.

Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Wade Belak, Mark Bell and Andrew Raycroft were aboard yesterday and when the team returns to Toronto today, Kyle Wellwood and Carlo Colaiacovo will re-join the cast of afflicted.

But when the Leafs next venture out on Thursday afternoon for the start of four in a row on the highway, the seating assignment could be changed drastically.

Tucker and McCabe will have updates on their respective knee and groin injuries, while more should be known of the long-range outlook for the recuperating Wellwood (hernia surgery) and Colaiacovo (knee).

Bell will be down to two games left in his league suspension, callup Jiri Tlusty likely will have played three games and those on the bubble of the starting 20 -- Belak, Bates Battaglia and Simon Gamache -- will know if they fit in the overall 23-man roster. Defenceman Staffan Kronwall was returned to the Marlies on Friday.

About all coach Paul Maurice could say for certain yesterday morning is that Bell will be activated for the game in Ottawa on Nov. 6. He was hit with a 15-game suspension during training camp as a result of his role in an alcohol-related hit-and-run in San Jose in 2006.

"During the time off, he's had time to rehab an old (knee) injury," Maurice said. "He told me today that this is the first he has felt really good. It's exciting for us."

Maurice reminded that Bell will bring a heavy shot to the lineup and that he once played power-play point for the Chicago Blackhawks during two seasons of 20-plus goals. That will help if McCabe still is resting his groin after this week.

"I'll see the doctor (today), but now is definitely the time to rest it," McCabe said.

Tucker was fitted with his new right knee brace yesterday and intends to be on skates today. But it's not believed he'll be ready until next week at the earliest.

Wellwood, the projected second-line centre, stayed at home this weekend to work with the club's power-skating coach, with an eye to possibly playing late this week.


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