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Return of the Mats

“Once the puck drops, it’ll be a game like any other game.”

“Once the puck drops, it’ll be a game like any other game.”

Surely Mats Sundin doesn’t completely believe it himself, even as the words leave his lips.

Not when the game has long been the most anticipated on the Maple Leafs’ calendar, circled back in December when Sundin signed with the Canucks.

Not when Saturday marks the return of the former captain to his adopted city, the place where Sundin grew up as a hockey player, arriving in a deal for Wendel Clark; staying until he was the franchise’s all-time leader in goals, points.

Not when even his fellow NHLers are abuzz with curiosity about how Toronto will welcome him. Will he be feted by the fans as one of the greatest to ever pull on a Leafs jersey?

Or will the ACC jury jeer him for refusing to waive a no-trade clause that would have accelerated the team’s rebuilding; saying he wouldn’t become a rental player, then essentially becoming one anyway?

Sundin professes not to fret about how he is judged, though he concedes while his hockey focus is now with the Canucks, he hasn’t transplanted all his affections out of Hogtown.

“I feel really good about going back. Toronto feels like home for me. I spent 13 years in the city. They were great years and it’s always going to be part of my heart.”

In Ottawa, where the Canucks played Thursday night, Sens forward Jason Spezza was asked which was the bigger story — the arrival of Sundin in Eastern Canada or the whirlwind visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.

“I think Obama,” said Spezza.

“He might be a little bit of a bigger deal. Maybe not in Toronto, but here.”

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