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Mats On His Way Back

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) -- Toronto Maple Leafs doctors have given captain Mats Sundin the go-ahead to begin practising, the team said Monday.

"He's cleared for practice tomorrow and continues to improve,'' said Leafs GM John Ferguson, who wouldn't hazard a guess as to when Sundin would return to game action. "He's getting there, but not quite there. He will not be rushed. He's going to let us know how he feels.''

Doctors have re-evaluated his eye injury and Sundin, who will practise with the team Tuesday, is not expected to play against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. He could conceivably suit up as early as Saturday, when Toronto takes on Tampa Bay.

"His mental framework is moving along,'' said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "He looks fit. He told me it wouldn't be too long.''

Sundin's teammates welcomed the good news.

"It'll be nice to see the big mule out there again with us,'' said Darcy Tucker. "We've missed him, especially his presence, around our hockey club. He's a Maple Leaf through and through, and he brings it for us every day he comes to the rink, so it'll be nice to have him back, that's for sure.''

Jason Allison agreed.

"We can't wait to have him back,'' said Allison. "Whether it's next game, or the game after, or the game after that, he'll be a big boost for us.''

The six-foot-five, 231-pound centre suffered a fractured left orbital bone when he was struck by a puck in the season opener against Ottawa on Oct. 5.

Sundin, 34, has yet to record a point this season. He had 31 goals and 44 assists for 75 points in 81 games during the 2003-04 season.

Sundin has indicated he will wear a visor when he returns.

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