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Coach sees replacing Tucker's grit as most important in his absence

The Canadian Press
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Blood streams down from the mouth of Toronto Maple Leafs\' Darcy Tucker. (AP File/Charles Krupa) Author: The Hockey News

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Coach sees replacing Tucker's grit as most important in his absence

The Canadian Press
By:

Tucker was struck by a puck on the left foot during a Dec. 26 game. He played New Year's Day, but not since. He has tiny bone fractures in the foot and had a cast applied last Saturday, and it'll probably be at least another two weeks before he's fit to return to the lineup.

Tucker still leads the Leafs with 19 goals - 13 of them on power plays. Losing him on the right side hurts.

Jeff O'Neill has come through with some timely goals in Tucker's absence, and recent call-up Boyd Devereaux has been a solid two-way contributor on the right side.

"Devereaux has come in and given us production but the fact of the matter is that O'Neill is the guy that has done it in the past," Maurice said after practice Friday. "He's improved in the last 25 games as opposed to the first 25."

Despite being without Tucker and Kyle Wellwood, who's been out since December and will be gone for at least another six weeks after undergoing hernia surgery Tuesday, the Leafs' power play is fifth-best in the NHL.

Thus, offsetting the loss of the main thing that Maurice says Tucker supplies is of paramount importance.

"We're looking for that tenacity, that grit," said Maurice. "We're looking for some players who maybe normally don't play that style, play a game that drags (teammates) around him into the fight. That's what Darcy does for our team."

The Leafs play the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night (7 p.m. EST).

The good news on the injury front is that defenceman Ian White, who missed the last five games with a shoulder injury, participated in the full workout Friday and says he's ready for game action.

"Everything feels good to go," said White.

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Coach sees replacing Tucker's grit as most important in his absence