The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping Darcy Tucker can help boost them into the postseason.
With the hard-hitting forward back on the ice, the Maple Leafs will try to begin crawling up the Eastern Conference standings Tuesday when they host the slumping Washington Capitals.
Tucker, who had 19 goals and 12 assists in 39 games before breaking his left foot, returned to the ice for the first time since Jan. 1 in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres.
The 13-year veteran did not record a point in 15:16 of ice time, but did receive a long ovation when he was shown on the videoboard following a tribute showing his some most violent hits and entertaining antics. Tucker posted career highs of 28 goals and 61 points last season for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs (31-26-9) are tied with the New York Rangers for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes for the conference's eighth and final postseason spot. Both the Leafs and Rangers have two games in hand on Carolina.
However, Toronto has dropped three of its last four games and was booed in the final seconds of Saturday's defeat. Nik Antropov scored the Maple Leafs' lone goal late in the third period.
Toronto was playing its first game without top defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who is sidelined indefinitely after a taking a late hit from New Jersey's Cam Janssen in Friday's 4-3 shootout win. Janssen was suspended three games for the hit.
"I'm really disappointed in the fact that we lost one of our leaders and one of the top five defenseman for I don't know long when we're in a situation where we're in a battle of our lives," said Tucker, who added that he was especially upset that the hit was made by someone who plays "two minutes a game."
"His only role out there is try to hurt somebody," he said.
The Capitals (24-30-12) dropped their fourth straight game Saturday, falling 6-2 to the New York Islanders. Brian Pothier and Brian Sutherby scored for Washington, while Boyd Gordon (sore knee) and Matt Pettinger (broken right thumb) both sat out after being injured in Thursday's 5-4 shootout loss to Tampa Bay.
Washington also lost center Kris Beech in the second period after he was hit in the knee with the puck. Coach Glen Hanlon said after the game he didn't know the severity of the injury.
"Obviously we're missing some guys, but at the same time, it certainly gives some other guys a chance to play," Sutherby said. "I guess that's the way you've got to look at it."
The Capitals, who have dropped nine of their last 10 overall, are just 2-12-1 in their last 15 road games.
"We've got character in this locker room, and I still believe every night we can go out and win hockey games, and that's the way we have to be," said Sutherby, who has scored four of his seven goals this season in his last seven games. "There's no night that I think anyone's come to the rink thinking we're going to lose. We just gotta go out and work hard and try to get points."
These teams have split two meetings this season, with the road team winning each time.