Leafs in playoff mode

TORONTO SUN STAFF

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

It might not be correct to say the Maple Leafs' fortunes ride solely on the shoulders of just two of them, but it would not be far off.

The Leafs, as they were a year ago when they eventually did not make the playoffs, will be in a struggle in the final 21/2 months to get to the post-season.

How captain Mats Sundin and goaltender Andrew Raycroft perform probably will play largely in what success comes to the Leafs.

"My game has to go up from now on," said Sundin, who has 42 points (18 goals and 24 assists) in 42 games. "A big part of my game is to be productive and score goals."

Sundin has been achieving milestones for a while this season but he is closing in on the biggest yet in a Leafs uniform. Sundin has 875 points as a Leaf, 41 behind franchise-leader Darryl Sittler, who had 916. Sundin is 10 goals behind Sittler, who had 389.

NEED TO WIN

"I have not paid a lot of attention to that part," Sundin said. "It's the same situation for me as it is for the rest of us -- we need to do whatever we can to win hockey games. Our playoffs have started already."

Of course, if the Leafs go into the tank in the next few weeks and fall out of the playoff race, Sundin might not have a shot at Sittler. Though the club does not want to do so now, it might find it prudent to trade Sundin before the Feb. 27 National Hockey League trade deadline.

Raycroft, on the other hand, will try to right a season in which he has not been consistent. The 26-year-old spent the all-star break relaxing on a beach in Mexico with one of his old junior pals, Mike Zigomanis of the Phoenix Coyotes, and their significant others, and said the mental break was needed. From afar, Raycroft's 20-16-4 record looks okay, but his 3.10 goals-against average and .892 save percentage are not good. The Leafs have given up 168 goals. Only three NHL clubs have allowed more.

But Raycroft is optimistic.

"I'm ready to roll," Raycroft said. "I feel good about where I am personally and I feel good where we are. We win a few big games, and we're right there. It's close and we have the guys to do it."


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