'Showdown' in New York

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

It has sarcastically been referred to in the past as the Nassau County Mausoleum.

And by late this evening, it could very well be the place where the Maple Leafs' playoff aspirations finally are dead and buried.

If the Leafs do not keep pace with the Montreal Canadiens by the time their respective games are completed tonight, Paul Maurice's team can kiss the post-season goodbye.

With both the Leafs and Habs down to their final two games, Toronto enters the contest against the host New York Islanders trailing the eighth-place Habs by one point in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, will be facing off just 70 kilometres away against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Here is the simplest way to keep track of the playoff implications.

IT'S CLOSE

If the Canadiens come out of their game with one more point than the Leafs do in theirs, Toronto is done.

On the other hand, if the Leafs wake up tomorrow still within one of the Habs, if not tied or ahead of their storied rivals, it will set up a one-game showdown against Montreal at the Air Canada Centre Saturday night for all the marbles.

Confusing?

Not to the Leafs, who know that victories in their final two contests will get them a guaranteed invite to the Stanley Cup dance.

"I don't really care what (the Canadiens) do," winger Darcy Tucker said. "We have to win. Nothing else matters."

In an interesting twist, the Canadiens-Rangers game gets underway at about 7 p.m., some 30 minutes before the Leafs and Isles face off. As a result, by the time the Leafs take to the ice for the third period, they might already know how the Habs have fared.

Coach Paul Maurice doesn't really care for such a distraction. One gets the impression the Toronto coach would love to get the wire snippers and cut the electricity to the centre-ice jumbotron, thereby forcing his team to concentrate on its game, not Montreal's.

"I am not a fan of the out-of-town scoreboard," Maurice said.

By all accounts, the Leafs' fate could rest in the hands of Isles goalie Wade Dubielewicz, the man filling in for injured starter RickDiPietro.

Asked if he could even spell the name of the Isles backup, Maurice chuckled.

"No, I just know they call him Dubie," he said. "I can handle that.

"He's got real good lateral movement ... It's just a matter that his puckhandling won't be as effective (as DiPietro's). It changes your forecheck.

"We just have to take the stand that we can't worry about any (other teams) but ourselves."


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