Superstar captain Mats Sundin will be out three to four weeks with a right elbow injury.
“It’s a slight tear of the ligament,” Leafs GM John Ferguson said Wednesday. “It happened in the first period (of Monday’s game against Philadelphia) and he played the rest of the game. He won the faceoff for the winning goal in the third period. …
“But he was obviously under some great deal of discomfort after the game.”
Sundin led the Leafs with 19 points (8-11) in 17 games. The 36-year-old centre was especially hot in the last five games, collecting nine points (3-6).
The Maple Leafs are 5-1-0 in their past six games.
Ferguson said it’s up to other forwards to step up, much like the defence did in the absence of injured blue-liners Pavel Kubina, Andrew Wozniewski, Carlo Colaiacovo and Staffan Kronwall.
“Brendan Bell and Ian White along with Hall Gill and Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe especially – they were not only able to get us through that but really come through for us,” said Ferguson. “So this is going to be an opportunity up front. You don’t replace Mats, but it is going to be an opportunity for others to demonstrate their abilities to handle more.
“Handle more responsibility, handle more ice time and be difference makers for us.”
Darcy Tucker is next in scoring on Toronto with 16 points (10-6) in 17 games, followed by Kaberle (13 points), and Alexei Ponikarovsky, Kyle Wellwood and Matt Stajan all at 12 points apiece.
The Leafs are at Boston on Thursday followed by a home game with Montreal on Saturday. Then the Leafs get a bit of break, off until Nov. 16 at Boston.
Sundin missed 12 games early last season after he suffered a fractured lower orbital bone when his left eye was struck by a puck in the season opener.
He came back to score 31 goals and 47 assists in 69 games, his 78 points tops on the club despite missing time.