It's win-win or game over

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Backed into the corner of playoff elimination this week, the only weapon the Maple Leafs can reach for is a broom.

It's either sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in a home-and-home or re-enter the draft lottery turtle derby in what will be an excruciating final 10 games of media and fan mockery.

Cutting the Flyers' eight-point lead in half -- even that can't guarantee the four other teams ahead will co-operate and stay idle -- requires Toronto to accomplish three goals it hasn't all year:

- Beat the Flyers (0-2, out-scored 7-3).

- Win on consecutive nights (0-11 in such circumstances, 2-8-1 in the second game, which in this case is Wednesday in Philly).

- Use tomorrow's series' opener at the Air Canada Centre as the catalyst for a season-high winning streak of five-games plus. That's old-fashioned, regulation, clean two points each night, no giving back ground to rival playoff orphans such as the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders.

After that stupendous feat, the Leafs would have to scrape past the playoff-bound Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins in two-game meetings up to April 5. But hey, one Everest at a time.

"We've made it tough on ourselves all year," defenceman Tomas Kaberle said as the shattered Leafs recovered from Saturday's 2-1, last-minute loss to the New Jersey Devils. "The only way to do it now is to win both games this week. If you think about it, there are really eight points on the table against Philadelphia.

"They were kind of in the same picture as us when they were in their 10-game slide."

But now the Flyers have points in seven of their past eight, thanks to the efforts of players such as Jeff Carter, who is rolling up big minutes and numbers with buddy Mike Richards out with a torn hamstring.

Carter has been to the Flyers what elder statesman Mats Sundin is to the Leafs, with seven goals in Philly's past 10 outings. And where Kaberle has six points in his past six, top Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen has 10 helpers in that span.

"We know what's at stake here," Carter told reporters after scoring in Saturday's 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. "Obviously, we weren't happy with that stretch we had."

And Flyers with long memories will recall they lost all four games to Toronto last year as part of a stunning fall to last overall.

After being skunked twice by Martin Brodeur last week, the Leafs face another chatty French Canadian goalie with the same initials. Martin Biron, the forgotten man in Buffalo when Ryan Miller laid claim to the No. 1 job, has 25 wins and a shot at besting his career high of 31 as a Sabre in 2001-02. Coach John Stevens has indicated he'll play the majority of games down the stretch.


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