Leafs won't take Wild night lightly
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri takes part in practice at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto on March 21, 2011. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
ST. PAUL, Min. — The Maple Leafs already know the dangers of “guaranteed win night” against a team they are expected to beat.
So as wounded as the Minnesota Wild are heading into Tuesday’s life and death game at the XCel Energy Center, the Leafs know they can’t take any opponent lightly.
Last week, the Leafs ran out of gas against the Florida Panthers, a struggling team that is out of the playoff picture. In fairness, they had played in Carolina the previous night, but it was two lost points they’d love to have back.
Next up is the Wild, a team that has lost it’s past six (one shy of a club record) and in its most recent game, lost 8-1 to Montreal, the most lopsided defeat in franchise history.
“You’ve got to get on them early and have a great start,” injured Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek said of the danger of playing a struggling team. “You want to make sure they don’t come out of their slump against you that night. Everyone here is aware of that.
“We know they are going to be ready. And we need those two points.”
Tuesday’s game kicks off a three-game Western Conference road trip for the Leafs with stops in the Twin Cities, the Mile High City (Denver) and Motor City (Detroit).
With just nine games remaining, the Leafs have no margin for error if they are to remain in contention for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Entering Tuesday’s action, the Leafs trail eighth-place Buffalo by five points with the Sabres holding a game in hand as they prepare for a meeting against Montreal. Carolina, which is two points up on the Leafs, plays host to the Ottawa Senators.
The Leafs haven’t visited Minnesota since January, 2009 where they were blasted 6-1 by the Wild, who are clinging to their own desperate playoff hopes.
Though they have 78 points (four more than the Leafs) they are seven points out in the tough Western Conference. Before their current losing skid, Minnesota seemed to have an upper hand on one of the final spots.
James Reimer is expected to be back in net for the Leafs, who cancelled their gameday skate on Tuesday morning. Komisarek is questionable with a groin injury while Darryl Boyce is expected back after suffering a minor “upper body” injury.