Roberts says Leafs are playoff material

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

Gary Roberts is guaranteed of participating in the National Hockey League playoffs later this month with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And though one of his former clubs, the Maple Leafs, has not secured a spot in the post-season dance, Roberts figured the Leafs can play the role of party crasher if they get in.

"If this team, the Leafs, makes it to the playoffs, it is going to be a force for sure," Roberts said after the Leafs beat the Penguins 5-4 in overtime last night at the Air Canada Centre.

"They're big and strong and nowadays if you get there, and get some luck on your side, anybody can win. The East is going to be very interesting."

Roberts scored the Penguins' first goal last night when he deflected a point shot by Sergei Gonchar. Roberts turns 41 in May but played last night with the zeal and hard work that would do 20-somethings proud. Roberts bumped Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe in the corner in the final seconds of the third period, a play that helped lead to the tying goal by Ryan Whitney with four seconds remaining.

"I knew it was our last crack to try to get a turnover," Roberts said. "I just tried to finish my check and Caber did not like it very much, but what are you going to do. He would have done the same thing."

Though the Penguins climbed back from a 4-1 deficit, Roberts was not about to say his team let a point slip away.

"The Leafs have a lot of character and it was a huge win for their team," Roberts said. "They played well. They picked us apart in our zone. (Mats) Sundin's line found some empty space for some goals, and we were fortunate to get a point."

In four seasons as a Leaf, Roberts was a crucial piece for the Leafs each spring. In 50 post-season matches, he had 40 points and carried the club in April and May of 2002, when it lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final. Roberts remembered those days with a smile, but wants now to only look forward.

"My focus is to try to help this team get as far as we can in the playoffs," Roberts said. "Hopefully we can do something special here."

Any plans for next season, when he will be an unrestricted free agent? It's known Roberts would not mind being a Leaf again.

"I'm going to play," Roberts said.

"At this point, I feel good, pretty healthy, and I still enjoy the preparation part."


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