Leafs have that winning feeling

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

TORONTO - Phil Kessel has 27 goals, Mikhail Grabovski has 25. But the Leafs must continue to get help from guys like Darryl Boyce and Dion Phaneuf if they want to keep rolling. And boy are they rolling.

Boyce and Phaneuf both chipped in goals during a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Thursday night as the Leafs improved to 10-2-4 since the all-star break and now sit just four points behind Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 17 games remaining in their regular-season schedule.

“You need contributions from the other guys when the Kessels and Grabovskis are being marked tightly,” coach Ron Wilson said Saturday morning ahead of the Leafs (29-27-9) home game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (36-23-6).

“You have to get secondary scoring, whether it’s a defenceman chipping in a goal or someone like Darryl Boyce or a guy on the third or fourth line scoring a goal, that’s huge for us.”

It wasn’t very long ago that these young Leafs looked to be out of the playoff picture, but a 6-0-3 record in their past nine games – all one goal affairs – has the team believing in itself and playing with confidence.

“You get on a bit of a roll, which we’ve been on since the all-star break and it builds every day,” Wilson said of the Leafs new-found confidence. “As you keep on winning, naturally your confidence grows. And when you’re only three or four points out, you can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Leafs haven’t lost in regulation in three weeks but they will be in for a tough Original Six battle at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night against a Blackhawks squad that looks to extend its season-high winning streak to eight games. The Leafs will be trying to get the jump on the weary Blackhawks, who played Friday night at the United Center, a 5-2 win over the Hurricanes. Toronto hasn’t played since Thursday.

“We’ve got a feeling in the room right now that we can win every game,” forward Colby Armstrong said. “Going into every game, we know we’ve got a chance to win instead of going in saying: ‘Oh, no, here we go again.’”

The Leafs will be sticking with the same squad they have had success with during their recent run. Rookie sensation James Reimer (12-4-3, 2.28 GAA, .929 SV%) will be manning the net again as Toronto faces Chicago for the first and only time this season.

Quick Hits:

Armstrong on defenceman Keith Aulie’s newly acquired handle “Muhammad Aulie”: “That’s pretty good, eh? I told him he shouldn’t skate today, instead he should just put on a tracksuit and jog around the city.”

Aulie on his new nickname: “I think it’s a little premature. I’ve been in one scrap in the NHL.”


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