Patched up one more time

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

After re-signing Darcy Tucker to a four-year, $12-million US contract last year, the Maple Leafs hope his body maintenance days are kept to a minimum.

Not to worry says Tucker, who returned to the lineup last night after coach Paul Maurice ordered the aching winger to sit out Thursday's game in New York against the Rangers.

Tucker was suffering at least three separate injuries, lower body from a blocked shot, upper body after crashing heavily into the boards during practice last week and the ongoing discomfort of the MCL on his right knee, which has required a brace.

Tucker had missed about 80 games since playing a full season for the Leafs in 2000-01, the majority of that down time coming last season with a foot injury. The knee cost him seven games this autumn and his absence has brought his offensive numbers down.

It was put to Tucker yesterday whether his boisterous style of play through most of his 12-year NHL career is catching up to him at age 32.

"I don't know if you call crashing into the boards as a sign that 12 years takes a toll," Tucker said with a grin. "Unless it means I should get my eyes checked.

"I just had a buildup of stuff the past couple of weeks, really unusual things that happened in a short period. I needed time to let swelling the go down. Now I've had three days off to rest it and hopefully I've put in the past and I can get back and help the team."

Tucker took Thursday's game off, then Friday's practice to have X-rays taken and to have club therapists run some tests. He skated yesterday morning with the Leafs and said it was "better odds than a casino" that he would play against the Bruins Bruins.

It meant that John Pohl was scratched last night, while Mark Bell was dropped back to the fourth line and Tucker resumed play with Kyle Wellwood and Jason Blake.


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