Leafs look to home games

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

John Pohl was thrilled to score two goals in a National Hockey League game for the first time in his life on Saturday night, but he was more concerned with the end result.

Putting team ahead of self is nothing new for athletes who play club sports. But when the Maple Leafs, who were given yesterday off by coach Paul Maurice, beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on Saturday, it marked just their 12th home win this season.

Captain Mats Sundin has noted several times that if the Leafs are to have a true shot of making the playoffs and having success if they do, they must be better in the supposed friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre. To that end, Pohl said the location of that victory was what mattered most.

"It's a little more important than the two points only because we have not been winning here much," Pohl said. "Hopefully, we can get on a roll and win a bit more here and have that good feeling going into the playoffs."

The Leafs reached .500 at home and now sit 12-12-5 at the ACC with the Boston Bruins visiting tomorrow night. Toronto, which never had fewer than 19 home victories in any of the seven years Pat Quinn was behind the bench, has 12 games left at the corner of Bay and Lakeshore.

After the Leafs defeated the Flyers in Philadelphia this past Thursday, Maurice said it was important to "bring some road calm to home" and that he was confident "home will be a good place for us down the stretch."

Only the Buffalo Sabres, with 40 points on the road, have more than the Leafs' 37. Overall, the Leafs have 66 points and hold eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Following the win over Edmonton, Maurice reiterated that he is not worried about what the Leafs have to get accomplished at the ACC in the next seven weeks.

They are 7-1-2 in 10 games since the all-star break, making them one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

"I think the (low) number (of home wins) is a little bit skewed because we have played much better since Jan. 1, and certainly since the all-star break," Maurice said. "We have been on the road a lot and I don't think we are playing better because we are on the road. If we had been at home during this stretch, the numbers would look different."

But Maurice knows there are differences between playing at home and on the road.

"There is something to it," Maurice said. "Going into the third period (on Saturday) you have a one-goal lead and that locker room on the road would be pretty wired and feeling pretty good. It is a little quieter at home because you are feeling it a little bit."

And if the Leafs want challenges, they will get them at home in the next few weeks. They go away for three after the Bruins visit, but get the conference-leading Sabres at the ACC three times, as well as the New Jersey Devils and arch-rival Ottawa Senators once each.

"Our schedule is not going to get any easier," Sundin said. "We're going to play a lot of these top teams and we have to keep winning hockey games if we want to make the playoffs. There is no doubt about that."


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