EDMONTON - A month into this NHL season, it would have seemed like a poor attempt at humour to predict this.
But with a win here tonight against the struggling Oilers, the Maple Leafs could end their busy December schedule just a point out of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Besides a win, the Leafs would need a couple other teams to lose tonight, but the mere fact that it’s a possibility is indicative of a brilliant turnaround to a season that began with eight consecutive losses.
What a way to reach the midway point of the season for coach Ron Wilson’s team, which is coming off one of it’s more impressive outings of the season - Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
On paper, the Leafs should be clear favourites tonight given the fact the Oilers have dropped their past seven and five in a row at home.
“I don’t think we’re in a position ever to be complacent,” Wilson said. “The points are too important. We seem to have trouble though when we play teams in the same boat.
“After the Christmas break, everybody understands the importance of every game, every point. Essentially that’s what it is, trying to get a point every game.”
While the Leafs are hoping to head into the New Year with some momentum, the Oilers are just trying to figure out a way to snap out of their current funk.
“When things don’t go well for so long it’s hard to expect them to go right,” Oilers forward Ethan Moreau said. “We just need one goal to go in for us, one big blocked shot or save.”
Wilson, meanwhile, is likely to stick with a revamped group of forward lines that worked well in Pittsburgh.
Most notable of the shuffling is the fact that Mikhail Grabovski is centring the fourth line between enforcers Jamal Mayers and Colton Orr.
Grabovski wasn’t pleased with the demotion but hopes to work his way out of it.
“He doesn’t tell me nothing,” Grabovski said. “I just have to keep working hard.”
Vesa Toskala will get a second consecutive start in the Toronto net.