Leafs look to keep streak alive

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:21 PM ET

Three wins in four games counts as an epic run of success for the current edition of the Maple Leafs.

There's little reason to revel in it, however, and even less time to do so.

The Leafs had a rare complete day off yesterday -- no Hockey Night in Canada, no practice -- and they best make good use of it.

Starting with tomorrow's home date against Buffalo, the team begins a wicked run that includes four games in six nights, with each of those to be played in a different city. And that's just the start: Over a 22-day period, the Leafs will play 13 games.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it," defenceman Ian White said following Friday's 6-4 win in Florida. "The schedule is brutal."

While the Leafs have reason to feel good about themselves, thanks to a two-game sweep in Florida and recording points in their past five games, with this team we have seen it can turn ugly again in a hurry.

As for the schedule, thanks to Vancouver 2010, it's a rough ride for everyone around the league.

"(It's an) Olympic year and we had good breaks earlier," Leafs general manager Brian Burke said yesterday. "This is where we pay the schedule maker back.

"I come from the Western Conference (since 1998). We are not in a strong position to whine about the schedule."

While the games are bunched together, the long haul travel isn't so bad. The Leafs only leave the Eastern time zone once the rest of the season -- and that's for a relatively short haul to St. Louis.

A bigger challenge than the schedule is for the team to utilize momentum in a positive way, especially for one of those early week home games that often lull the team and Air Canada Centre crowd to sleep.

When the Leafs return to practice today, Wilson will no doubt remind his team of a couple things: The previous time they had a two-game winning streak they stunk out the ACC in a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. And secondly, the team has been suspect at home. So far, 12 of the Leafs' 19 points have come on the road.

"We had (momentum) a couple weeks ago and lost it with a flat game," Wilson said. "We just have to make sure (tomorrow) we make our own excitement."

Decisions on D

With Mike Komisarek due to return to the lineup from his quadriceps injury this week, Wilson must decide who sits.

He has already said that rookie Carl Gunnarsson isn't going anywhere after a strong start to his NHL career through a handful of games.

Prime candidates. then, would be Garnet Exelby, who had a rough outing at times on Friday in Tampa and Luke Schenn, who continues to struggle.

Wakey Blakey

Jason Blake's goalless drought has reached 10 games and shows no sign of ending. Given that he's skating on the fourth line, it's going to be that much tougher to break.

Speaking of skating ... Blake can move, but he expends so much energy along the boards and in the perimeter that he doesn't put himself in good enough position often enough for great scoring chances.

The third-year Leaf shares the team lead in shots on goal with Lee Stempniak (76) but has scored just twice. With reduced ice-time in the two-game Florida tour on the fourth line, Blake had just three shots on net combined.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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