Bell's exile finally over

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

If the NHL superskills competition adds stops, starts and skating endlessly around the centre ice circle, the Leafs will enter Mark Bell and win handily. The forward's 15-game exile and more than a month of solitary extra workouts with assistant coach Keith Acton ended at the conclusion of last night's Leafs-Habs, game.

"I never thought this day would come," a chipper Bell said yesterday morning in the empty Leafs dressing room. "That was the last official bag skate of the year."

Bell hasn't played since May, but more important, says he hasn't had a drink in a year since an alcohol related hit and run in San Jose saw him sentenced to up to six months in jail at season's end. He will be in the lineup Tuesday against Ottawa, and agrees the key will not to be to come out like a cowboy. He'll start on the fourth line.

GAMACHE STILL GAME

Because friends and family didn't know if Simon Gamache would still be up with the Leafs when they came to Montreal, the winger didn't have many people in the stands last night. But he knew his mother Blandine and three older brothers would watch the game in the Thetford Mines region of Quebec.

"My father was not in my life and she did a great job raising me herself," Gamache said.

Coach Paul Maurice keeps insisting that Gamache hasn't been put on the fourth line and seen his ice time reduced due to any huge drop-off in his play.

"Jiri Tlusty -- that's what happened to Simon Gamache," Maurice said. "He went in and scored two goals in his first game and he's a plus three now."

LOOSE LEAFS

Centre Kyle Wellwood is almost a cinch to make his season debut on Tuesday against Ottawa, getting through another long practice yesterday with no difficulties... With goaltender Andrew Raycroft not utilized in a back-to-back situation on the weekend and Vesa Toskala almost certain to play division rival Ottawa, Raycroft's next likely start is Friday in Buffalo.


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