March 21, 2011
Pending road trip is huge: Phaneuf
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - A bad three-game trip would probably all but officially eliminate the Maple Leafs from playoff contention, a notion that is not lost on the players.
“It’s not a stretch (to say games in Minnesota, Colorado and Detroit could make or break the Leafs’ post-season hopes),” captain Dion Phaneuf said.
“They are huge games, but the biggest thing for us is taking it one game at a time, and I know that is a cliche, but it is the truth. You can’t look past Minnesota and say you have to win in Colorado, or look past Colorado and say you have to win in Detroit. We know the importance of this whole trip in this room.”
One small bonus for the Leafs — and they will take them where they can — is that they did not lose any ground in the Eastern Conference standings on Monday night, as none of the teams they are jostling with were playing.
With nine games remaining, Toronto is five points behind the Buffalo Sabres, who have 79 points, for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. Carolina is in ninth place, two points ahead of the Leafs. And the New Jersey Devils, who won’t go away, are two points behind the Leafs. All four clubs play on Tuesday night.
ONCE WAS ENOUGH
The Leafs know from fairly recent history that getting crushed one night does not mean it will happen again in the next game.
After the Leafs lost 7-0 to the Rangers in New York on Jan. 19, they rebounded well 24 hours later and beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 at home.
So they don’t expect a poor effort on Tuesday night from the Wild, which suffered its worst loss in franchise history on Sunday night when it lost 8-1 against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
“Teams don’t lay two eggs in a row,” Leafs centre Tim Brent said. “I was thinking about how they are going to be fired up to play us. I played for (Wild coach) Todd Richards (for Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League) and he will make sure his guys are ready.”
Rather than bag-skate his team on Monday, Richards gave his players the day off.
“When you get beaten like that, you take everything under the microscope and the next game you are worried about all the little things and what you have to do to win,” Leafs winger Clarke MacArthur said. “It’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Forward Colton Orr has not played since Jan. 20, when he suffered a concussion during a game against the Ducks. There appears to be just a small chance he will play again this season after missing the past 27 games.
“He has to do a lot of conditioning over the next week to 10 days, and then we will make a decision on where we are and how he feels,” coach Ron Wilson said. “Another week, and there are only six games left, and he probably needs a week of skating with us. Then you are down to three, and you would have to wonder if it would be smart to play three.”
Wilson said forward Darryl Boyce, who left during a 5-2 win versus Boston on Saturday night because of an upper-body injury, could be in the lineup in Minnesota despite missing practice on Monday. Defenceman Mike Komisarek, who has a groin issue, practised but might not return until Thursday in Colorado.