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Canadian Press
1/26/2007 2:13:21 PM


TORONTO (CP) - Replacing Darcy Tucker's tenacity is more important to the Toronto Maple Leafs than replacing his scoring, says head coach Paul Maurice.

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.

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I think they'll miss his heart more than his grit.

He hasn't been very gritty this year really, it's more of going that extra mile at both ends of the ice for the team.

Yes, he still shows grit, but it's not nearly at the level that he used to give Toronto.

He's more "balanced".
 
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