Out of the doghouse

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

Kyle Wellwood stepped out of coach Paul Maurice's doghouse and into the Maple Leafs lineup.

Wellwood, who was made a healthy scratch the past two games, was back in action last night, perhaps partially due to the facial injury that has forward Mark Bell looking at surgery.

Whatever the reason for Wellwood's return, the young forward admitted he was humbled by his recent stint in civvies. To his credit, he did not blame his hernia surgery in September, his second such operation in a nine month span, for his recent on-ice lack of production.

"The hard part was waking up in the morning knowing you had no chance to be the best player out there," Wellwood said.

"It's been a tough change. I have to work my way back up again. I know what it takes. I know what it means to be a good player.

"Growing up I was always a good player. When you're good you don't really worry about anything. That's why it's so hard when you are not performing."

Wellwood started on a line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov in the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre.

Maurice has been quite candid about the foundering Wellwood, who came into the contest with just five goals and five assists in 24 games. Questions about Wellwood's conditioning -- or, more specifically, lack thereof -- have come up recently as well.

Wellwood drew an assist on Mats Sundin's first goal in the third period.

PIPE DREAMS

Goalie Vesa Toskala worked out again on the ice yesterday, staying behind to take shots after his teammates had left the ice after the Leafs' morning skate.

While Toronto's No. 1 goalie refused to make predictions about a date for his comeback from his nagging groin injury, he did admit he is feeling better.

"But it's not 100 % yet," he added. "Hopefully it will keep improving. We'll see how it goes.

"The key is to be 100 % before I go back in there."


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