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When the Toronto Maple Leafs gathered in the dressing room at the Air Canada Centre for their preseason opener a few weeks ago, Darcy Tucker motioned to his new teammate, Michael Peca, to occupy the locker stall to his left.

"Right here," said Tucker, slapping his hand on the seat next to him.

The other players in the dressing room gave the kind gesture a double-take, considering what happened on April 26, 2002, when Tucker delivered a low-bridge hit on the then New York Islanders forward, resulting in reconstructive surgery for Peca.

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Tucker's overture was part of the healing process that the two have undertaken since they became teammates last summer.

"If I could have taken a mulligan, I would have taken one on that hit," said Tucker, who scored twice in the Leafs 6-0 whitewash of the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. "I felt bad about that hit and that I injured him.

"The two of us have made a conscious effort to get to know each other in the summer, and I thought it was big for the team to see that we have put our differences in the past."

The feisty forwards were in tandem with their effort against the Senators in Ottawa two nights ago, when they exhibited a tremendous amount of on-ice intensity and pulled their teammates along with them.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Peca and the 5-foot-10, 178-pound Tucker are thankful they are now teammates and not opponents.

"I admire how much he puts into each shift," Peca said. "We're similar in stature, but determination goes a long way in our sport and I think he has proven that.

"I would say I'm a little more controlled emotionally than him. But we do have the same attributes in terms of we are out there competing and putting a lot of second effort into the game because of our size."

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Tucker's effort to befriend Peca began with a golf game a couple days after Peca signed as an unrestricted free agent.

They were quick to settle their differences and, before they knew it, Tucker was giving advice to his new teammate on a good school for his kids. Now at each home game, their six-year-old sons have a whale of time playing in a family skybox. They have become close friends at school.

"As time goes by, you realize that stuff that happens between opponents is simply part of the game," Peca said. "I know that when I've injured people it's not out of intent. Emotions run crazy, especially in the playoffs.

"Coming here now, it's one of those situations that you enjoy playing with someone who, when you were opponents, was so difficult to play against."

Tucker already shows the effects of his willingness to mix it up. He suffered a nasty scrape underneath his right eye when his face hit the shin pad of Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips on Thursday.

The two-goal performance was just what Tucker needed to keep his confidence high after a career-high 28-goal season and keep the pressure on the Leafs to sign him to a contract extension this season.

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"The most depressing thing of all was not making the playoffs," he said. "We have to make the playoffs this year and in order to do so, there are certain guys here, including myself, that have to stand up and be accounted for.

"I think the respect that you get for going out and playing hard every night and the leadership you bring to the rink maybe outweighs scoring goals and production.

"But there is going to be talk about this [a contract extension]all year, and I really don't want to talk about it. It's something that is out of my control. So you just go out and play hard."

Leafs forward Kyle Wellwood, who enjoyed a four-assist game on Thursday, was given the day off to nurse an undisclosed injury that Toronto coach Paul Maurice said will not keep the youngster out of the lineup against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.

The Leafs also signed veteran forward Boyd Devereaux to a one-year, two-way contract that is worth $450,000 (U.S.) if he plays in the NHL. He was placed on waivers yesterday, and if he clears today, Devereaux will be sent to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

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