A lot to prove in final Leafs games

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Lost, but not forgotten, in the talk about the Olympics and the NHL trade deadline in the Maple Leafs’ dressing room on Monday is that actual hockey games loom on the calendar.

Starting Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre against Olympic gold medallist Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes, the Leafs have 21 games remaining in a season that has seen them win just 19 of 61 matches.

Toronto has 49 points and is 15 behind the eighth-place Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference for the final playoff spot. A fifth consecutive Stanley Cup tournament won’t include the Leafs, so the main goal should be trying to ensure that the Boston Bruins won’t have a chance to select Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin at the entry draft with the Leafs’ pick.

“We have a lot to play for here,” goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “We have a lot of guys who need to prove something. As a team, we have to show management that this is the team we need to keep for next year. We need to start (Tuesday).”

Giguere was just trying to be nice. He knows there’s no chance this Leafs club will be intact next season, let alone in the following 24 hours.

Troubling for the Leafs is they’re going to have to fight hard just to get out of the East basement. The Hurricanes are six points ahead of them, and the only other NHL outfit that does not have 50 points is the Edmonton Oilers, who are mired at 44.

The final six weeks of the regular season will be a chance for some of the younger Leafs to show coach Ron Wilson and general manager Brian Burke that they’re worthy of consideration for 2010-11.

“There are no spots guaranteed for next year, not even the rest of this year,” forward Christan Hanson said. “I want to prove myself not only for the next game, but for next year too.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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