Great Buffalo jump

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

TORONTO -- They went toe-to-toe with the best team in the league and almost didn't flinch.

If Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres proved anything, the Edmonton Oilers can play with any team in the NHL.

"There is a not a lot of difference in this league," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"You play a team that is a little more skilled than another team, but they're a little less desperate.

"What it does is underscores the fact that you have a chance against anybody. It reinforces the fact that it's in our own grasp if we can get our game and keep it at a level we can win at. As of yet we haven't done that."

DESPERATE LEAFS

Tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers face a team that is less skilled, but more desperate than the Sabres.

The Leafs are in a playoff battle of their own, currently occupying the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens hot on their heels.

"The biggest thing about the game in Buffalo is that we were cycling the puck well, we were in close support, causing a lot of traffic and taking the puck to the net," said Oilers forward Ryan Smyth. "We were able to sneak a point out of there, but if you continue to do those things, it's going to make a difference."

Heading into tonight's encounter, the Oilers are still six points out of a playoff spot.

With five games remaining on their current seven-game road trip, the goal is to be within striking distance when they line up to face the Minnesota Wild on the last game of the trip.

The Wild currently occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

CRITICAL STAGE

"Throughout the league, all the games are critical at this stage of the season," Smyth said. "We know it's going to be a big intense game (tonight); we just have to play our style and not worry too much about them."

The last time the Oilers were in Toronto was before the lockout, losing 4-1 on Nov. 8, 2003.

The Oilers are 15-20-2-0 lifetime against the Maple Leafs in The Big Smoke.

"It should be a competitive game from both teams' perspective," MacTavish said.

"We need the points badly. Toronto is embroiled in their own race, and it's a real microcosm of today's NHL where everybody's got a chance.

"There are only so many opportunities, and for us those opportunities are starting to run out."


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