Leafs still in hunt

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The Maple Leafs haven't given up on making the playoffs this season, even though it's a major long shot, and backup goaltender Curtis Joseph is not going to retire from hockey soon.

Heading into last night's Buffalo-Florida game, the Leafs were eight points out of a playoff spot with eight games remaining -- although the key factor against the blue and white at this point is that there are three teams between them and the eighth and final spot -- the Sabres, Panthers and Montreal Canadiens.

"No, not realistic," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said, when asked to assess the club's playoff chances. "But until we're out, we're still in. But we basically have to win every game."

General manager Brian Burke also made the point yesterday that his club will continue to play for wins, and not consider tanking in order to get a higher draft pick, because they owe it to their fans and the opposition to play hard ever night -- particularly the other teams fighting for a playoff spot.

As for Joseph, the 41-year-old yesterday reiterated what he told Sun Media last week -- that he will continue playing next season, as long as a team is interested in him.

Joseph added that he will keep all his options open as to where he would play, but suggested that playing in Europe or the American League would be unlikely.

"That would be very difficult for me, with four kids," Joseph said when asked about Europe. "The NHL's my priority. I would probably make more in endorsements staying in Toronto (than playing in the AHL). To play in the AHL, it's not the NHL. It wouldn't be the same motivation for me.

"That's like ... if you went to work for the Newmarket Era (newspaper). And they were going to pay you 10 grand. Would you do it?"

Joseph, who has won three of his past four games, including a dramatic win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday after coming in for starter Martin Gerber, said that he will not allow himself to think about retiring at this point.

"I don't think about those things. If I think about coaching, I'm going to play like crap. If I think about this being my last year, I'm going to play like crap," Joseph said. "If I think I'm going to play for three more years, I'm going to play good."

"Now's not the time to worry about next year or the year after. I enjoy playing," he added.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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