Leafs, Isles on parallel paths

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:40 AM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Maybe next year, the Maple Leafs and Islanders can fight for something more meaningful than 28th place.

Perhaps one of the coveted eight playoff spots that has been denied both teams since the lockout — as they’ve gone through various painful rebuilding missteps — will be the target. Each team has moved towards youth. They both have explosive young forwards and a key European defenceman.

Of course, the Isles’ situation is complicated by the team’s long-term future in this area, tied to a much-discussed but yet-to-be built commerciual project, not to mention their multi-millionaire goaltender Rick DiPietro’s knee woes.

But with John Tavares aboard, a first overall choice that the envious Leafs won’t have this year, the Isles will be a force down the road.

“We both have young guys with key veterans plugged in,” said New York forward Matt Moulson. “The Leafs work hard and they’re a good skating team, that forechecks and we pride ourselves on that, too.

“It will be interesting to see how both team develop in the next few years. Maybe we will be battling it out for top spot one day.”

Up to the past 48 hours, the Leafs had the momentum with four wins in five games. But now they’ve played four consecutive poor periods going back to Saturday night against Edmonton, while New York reversed a four-game losing streak with weekend victories over Toronto and New Jersey. It still won’t get the Isles in the playoffs, especially with Doug Weight done for the year.

Something about playing in the half-empty Nassau Coliseum rattles the Leafs, who have just two goals in here this season and seven overall the past four visits.

“You’re a rival with everybody,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.

“They’ve been doing this (roster fixup) a few years now and they had the first pick with Tavares, who is going to be a great player. They have a lot of fine young players, but they have to be patient and so do we.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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