Leafs strive to jump in standings

LANCE HORNBY, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:05 PM ET

The Maple Leafs will have their appetite whetted with a different taste the rest of this week.

Beating three playoff-bound teams is one thing, but the next trio, starting at home Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, will be against clubs on the periphery of post-season play. Toronto, shooting for its eighth win in 10 games, has a 2-1 record against the 11th-place Cats, with games against Atlanta and the New York Rangers next on the menu.

“It doesn’t make a difference who we play at this point,” defenceman Luke Schenn said. “We know about playing the spoiler role for other teams, but we just want to keep jumping up in the standings and making ourselves better, too.”

The Leafs want to continue improving in areas such as the penalty kill, where an 83% success rate since late January has moved them within range of escaping last overall in the NHL, where they’ve been mired since last season.

“Guys are playing desperate and getting the job done, blocking a few more shots,” Schenn said of the better numbers when down a man. “We’re keeping the shifts short to keep the lines fresh.”

Winger Luca Caputi is back in the Toronto lineup after missing Saturday with the flu. He has been restored with Mikhail Grabovksi and Viktor Stalberg on the second line.

The Panthers are opening a three-game Canadian tour with matches in Montreal and Ottawa later in the week. They wrap up with two against state rival Tampa Bay, which began Tuesday a point behind.

“(Injuries) have been frustrating,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We came off last year with a good feeling and wanted to take another step, but things haven’t fallen into place. Everyone gets injuries, but that’s not the only reason. You start to look back and disappointment is a good word for it.

“I like the way we’ve played since the Olympic break (5-4-1). We haven’t won a lot of games, but we’re doing good things.”

Ex-Leaf Scott Clemmensen gets the start in goal for Florida, opposing Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the Leafs continue alternating him and the 5-0 Jonas Gustavsson.

Tonight’s lineups

Toronto

LW C RW

Nikolai Kulemin Tyler Bozak Phil Kessel

Viktor Stalberg Mikhail Grabovski Luca Caputi

John Mitchell Christian Hanson Fredrik Sjostrom

Jamie Lundmark Rickard Wallin Colton Orr

DEFENCE

Dion Phaneuf Francois Beauchemin

Luke Schenn Tomas Kaberle

Garnet Exelby Carl Gunnarsson.

GOAL

Jean-Sebastien Giguere Jonas Gustavsson

Florida

LW C RW

Nathan Horton Stephen Weiss Michael Frolik

David Booth Steve Reinprecht Byron Bitz

Michael Frolik Shawn Matthias Radek Dvorak

Rostislav Olesz Kamil Kreps Nick Tarnasky

DEFENCE

Bryan McCabe Dmitry Kulikov

Keith Ballard Bryan Allen

Jason Garrison Keaton Ellerby

GOAL

Scott Clemmensen Tomas Vokoun


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