Playoffs not a dirty word for Wilson

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

Ron Wilson is feeling comfortable enough to mention the words the ‘playoffs’ and ‘Maple Leafs’ in the same sentence and not have people roll their eyes.

Wilson isn’t issuing a bold prediction to order tickets for April to beat the rush, but if the Leafs can overcome some Northeast Division demons this week and continue a string of home success, the Eastern Conference standings will start to speak for itself.

From an 0-7-1 start and national scorn, the Leafs began last night just four points back of a post-season berth as they began their final 50 games of the NHL schedule.

“We’re getting close enough to that eighth-place line to realize where we’ve come from,” coach Wilson said before taking on the Senators. “We do want to make the playoffs this year and to take our foot off of the gas right now would not be a wise choice.”

There was plenty of talk about the Leafs being in playoff contention through the summer, fuelled by significant player acquisitions and general manager Brian Burke’s bravado. But the whole organization swallowed a hunk of humble pie in October.

“We take (recent) success with a grain of salt,” defenceman Mike Komisarek said. “Something you need to have here is a short memory, along with a thick skin. But guys are having fun and playing relaxed. There were definitely adjustments with so many new faces here.”

One of the big reasons the Leafs continue to sit so low in the standings is their record within the Northeast Division (1-5-3 before last night). Starting with the Senators, they play three out of four in-house this week.

“We’ve played two pretty good games against Ottawa and didn’t get a point,” Wilson said. “We want ... to keep clipping away at the deficit we’re trying to make up.”

The earliest that Luke Schenn could return is tomorrow’s game against Phoenix. On the subject of benchings, Wilson quoted a recent interview with Detroit coach Mike Babcock.

“You can talk as much as you want to a player, but the only time he really listens and understands where you’re coming from is when you take away his ice time,” Wilson said. “Then the message usually lands with a big thud, but we’re talking about a 20-year-old kid whom we’ve allowed too much pressure on. We’re confident this will be good for Luke and make him a better player.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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