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Canadian Press
Nov 27, 2006, 4:07 PM EST


TORONTO (CP) - Mats Sundin is eager to resume a full leadership role.

The captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs was eased back into the lineup by coach Paul Maurice with a fourth-line assignment Saturday after missing seven games with an elbow injury. Imagine a cameo appearance in "The Departed" for Jack Nicholson instead of the leading role. Impossible.

So, expect the six-foot-five Swede to take the opening faceoff when the Leafs face the visiting Boston Bruins for the fourth time in nine games Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. ET).

Kyle Wellwood and Alexei Ponikarovsky will likely be on his wings after Maurice reshuffled forward combinations in practice Monday in search of more offence after a 3-1 loss to the Bruins. Putting Sundin back where he belongs was common-sense casting.

"It doesn't really matter," said Sundin, who has been the ultimate team player during his 11 years in Toronto. "I haven't played for three weeks so, whatever Paul wants to do, I'm fine with that.

"Whatever role he gives me, I'll be glad to take it."

He knows one thing for sure: "We all have to play better, including myself."

The Leafs earned nine of the possible 14 points without Sundin. The Bruins' checking frustrated them.

"We didn't play well the other night, and it had nothing to do with him coming back," big defenceman Hal Gill said of Sundin. "He's someone we count on, and we're happy he made it back as quickly as he did."

Matt Stajan was between Darcy Tucker and Jeff O'Neill, Nik Antropov centred Mike Peca and Bates Battaglia, and Alex Steen was between Chad Kilger and John Pohl for practice.

Tucker has 16 goals, including a league-high 11 on power plays. Set-ups by defencemen Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, and at least two other factors explain the output.

"They pass the puck so well, and a lot of it has to do with luck and timing," said Tucker.

Tucker has benefitted perhaps more than any other Leaf from the coaching of Maurice. He's having a ball.

"Playing in Toronto is a lot of fun," he said. "You come to the rink and it's packed for every game.

"You have a little more adrenalin in your body than maybe you'd have playing in some other places."

Peca had many a run-in with Tucker when they were opponents, and he can see a change that is allowing Tucker to enjoy a career-best season: there are fewer tirades.

"He curtails it from time to time now," said Peca. "Years ago, it was a constant type of energy.

"He's better at picking his spots now."

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Good to see Tucker and Peca are on the same page.

As for tonight's game: couldn't put up a gameday thread.

Have fun y'all. :D
 

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Wow. So they lost both games, and got blown out by the Thrashers 6-0 last night.

I don't like how the team always seems to stumble when Mats Sundin returns from an injury. I mean, always as in always.

I don't remember a time he came back and the team played well. I think they're into the habit of relying too much on the guy
 
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