Leafs face huge test

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Shy of someone gooning police constable/anthem singer Lyndon Slewidge during O Canada, few expect the Leafs to be capable of intimidating the Ottawa Senators tonight.

But they have at least one point at the 12-1-0 Sens' expense this year and lost by just a goal in Ottawa last month. That, combined with three road wins in their last four tries and the additions of Mark Bell and Kyle Wellwood, gives them a ray of hope.

"We out-shot them (43-29) last time and we've played two strong games against them," captain Mats Sundin said yesterday. "We won't get a better test than this. They're the team to beat right now."

Scotiabank Place will have many Leaf fans in attendance, too.

"The energy of that place is the same as Montreal," coach Paul Maurice said. "It brings out our best."

GENERAL HOSPITAL

Winger Darcy Tucker did not skate with the Leaf regulars yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena, going it alone with assistant coach Keith Acton early in the morning. Tucker is trying to find a comfort zone with his knee brace which is protecting minor ligament damage.

"I'm going to try and skate with the team in Ottawa (today) and hopefully I can start to skate with the guys later in the week," Tucker said.

The Leafs have the same hope for defenceman Bryan McCabe, who has missed more than a week with a groin strain. Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo has been working off the ice to strengthen his knee, still giving him problems six months after being scoped.

"We've kept him in the closet," Maurice joked, adding that he's encouraged by two strong off-ice workouts that the oft-injured Colaiacovo had in recent days.

LOOSE LEAFS

The NHL all-star ballots will be released this week. Sundin and defenceman Tomas Kaberle are certain to be included ... Winger Alex Steen has been playing some of his best hockey while battling a kind of bronchial condition ... The Leafs are 6-6-3 at the 15-game mark, compared to a year ago when they had one more win. They have both scored and allowed two more goals than at this point last year.


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