TORONTO - The Maple Leafs say they don’t want to be scoreboard gazing. But with just 19 games remaining in their regular season and them being six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot, it’s tough not to pay attention to what the other teams in the Eastern Conference are doing.
“We’ve been saying the whole time that we don’t want to sit at home and scoreboard watch,” forward Joffrey Lupul said after the Leafs pre-game skate on Wednesday morning. “It’s kind of natural to do so … but, again, we’ve have three more games this week and if we win these, we’re in a good position. It’s more about what we want to do right now. If we play really well through these last 19 games, we’ll be in.”
The Leafs will be laying their playoff hopes on the shoulders of netminder James Reimer. Ron Wilson said after the morning skate he “wouldn’t have bet a plug nickel that he’d be one of our goalies this year.”
“We wanted him to play in the minors and continue to develop and get better,” Wilson said. “Circumstances have allowed him an opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it.”
Wilson had already said he was going to run with Reimer (10-4-3, 2.31 GAA, .929 SV%) for the remainder of the season, or as long as the Leafs are in the playoff hunt. For Wednesday night’s game at home against the injury-riddled Pittsburgh Penguins, at least, Wilson will be sticking to those words – and the same lineup that has been in place for the past several games.
Toronto (27-27-9) gets its post-trade deadline part of the schedule going against the Penguins (37-21-6), who will be without stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as well as a host of other players. It’s the second consecutive game the Leafs will host the Penguins, and Toronto will be looking for a little redemption after losing a wild 6-5 shootout on Saturday night, the third consecutive time the Penguins have won at the ACC.
“We didn’t quite play the way we would have liked to, especially in the third period when we had the lead. So it’s nice to get another crack at them,” said Lupul, who scored a pair of goals in the contest.
Lupul on linemate Phil Kessel, who has eight points in his past four games: “I don’t know if I’ve played with a player quite like him in my career. He’s kind of a game-breaker. When he’s on a role like this, you just look to get him the puck. He can make something out of nothing.”
Reimer on taking over the starter’s role for the Leafs: “It’s a crazy story, really. When you’re a kid you dream about it. I remember my kindergarten yearbook. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ You want to be a hockey player, right?”