March 3, 2011
Leafs-Flyers playoff tilt may be in the cardsMeanwhile, ex-Leaf Versteeg faces emotional week
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
PHILADELPHIA - Could Thursday night’s tilt between the Maple Leafs and Kris Versteeg’s Philadelphia Flyers be a preview of a potential first-round playoff matchup next month?
The jacked-up members of Leafs Nation certainly hope so. Indeed, at this point, they couldn’t care who Toronto would meet just as long as it means an appearance in the post-season dance for the first time since 2004.
The Leafs head into the game just four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the National Hockey League’s eastern conference. Interestingly, the two teams directly ahead of them in the standings - the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes - also face off against each other Thursday night.
What the Leafs don’t want to see is the Sabres-Canes game go into overtime, a scenario which means both teams would collect at least one point.
Of course, the Leafs are more concerned with their own situation, one which dictates they somehow find a way to beat the top team in the east at the always-raucous Wells-Fargo Center.
Having said that, even Versteeg is intrigued at the possibility of a Leafs-Flyers showdown in the postseason.
“There’d be a dramatic flare to that for sure, and it looks like it if both teams keep going the way they are,” Versteeg said with a huge grin, adding that “for now, you leave those thoughts out of your mind.”
Versteeg has an emotional week ahead of him.
There is Thursday’s contest versus Toronto, his first since being traded by the Leafs on Feb. 14.
There is the rematch between the Flyers and Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on march 10.
And, one day later on March 11, there will be his reunion with his former Chicago teammates in Washington when President Barack Obama will host the Blackhawks at the White House in honour of their Stanley Cup championship.
Talk about an eventful few days.
Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger (hand) and forward Blair Betts (finger) are expected to play, although Betts likely will not be able to take faceoffs ... James Van Riemsdyk (groin) and Dan Carcillo (flu bug) are doubtful ... The Leafs did not skate Thursday morning ... The goalie matchup is expected to be Philly’s Sergei Bobrovsky against Toronto’s James Reimer.