Double troubles

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The devil may be in the details for the Maple Leafs when they meet Martin Brodeur tonight.

A pair of games with Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils sandwich a date in Beantown with the suffocating Boston Bruins this week, but the challenge for the Leafs to twice beat Brodeur might not be as daunting as it might seem.

Brodeur, expected to play in his 62nd game of the season this evening at the Air Canada Centre, has put many National Hockey League outfits in his back pocket during a career that has entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame rubber-stamped on it, but the Leafs aren't one of them. At 14-14-8 (the last number representing ties and overtime losses) against Brodeur, the Leafs own the best record of any Eastern team versus the man regarded by many as the top goalie today.

"You're playing one of the best goalies of all time twice in one week, it's going to be tough," Leafs centre Matt Stajan said. "A goalie can be as good as he wants, but if he can't see the puck, there is not much he can do."

The Leafs don't have much choice but to stick themselves in front of Brodeur's red and black mask if they wish to scrape away at the six points that separates them from the final playoff berth in the conference. Toronto has 15 games left and with 68 points, are looking at 12 or 13 victories, in all likelihood, to give themselves a chance to close the six-point gap to the playoffs.

No matter what happens this week and through the final portion of the schedule, the Leafs won't be able to say they were led astray. Within hours of waving away the notion of waiving his no-trade clause, captain Mats Sundin began a tear that was rewarded yesterday when the NHL named him its first star of the week. Sundin had four goals and four assists in the Leafs' four-game trip that featured three wins.

"He has been doing it all year," defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "Are you guys surprised? He gives us our spark every night and we are just trying to jump on his back and ride."

Sundin scoffed at the idea there is greater celebration after he was roasted in some quarters for deciding to stay in Toronto.

"I don't know about silencing critics," Sundin, 37, said. "I think our better play started before all the trading deadline stuff. I think we were doing good things weeks before that.

"The past three or four years, my game has been as good or even better than it was early in my career. I enjoy playing even more at this stage of my career."

The warm fuzzies surrounding Sundin might make a bunch of kindergarten kids glow, but this remains a Leafs team that is in a huge hole. The Leafs have never missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, but are bound to attain that dubious achievement this spring.

Whether Sundin can help the Leafs vanquish Brodeur two times in five nights might be too much to ask. But coach Paul Maurice said he is not worried too much about Brodeur, at least not now.

"Always a treat (to face Brodeur)," Maurice said. "I would like to get him about seven times in 14 days in a couple of months (in the playoffs), but we'll see."


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