It would be a stretch to call it a home game, but when you come from small-town Manitoba, playing in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is about as close as it comes for family and friends.
To that end, rookie Leafs goaltender James Reimer had a strong contingent of supporters who made the trek from Arborg, Man., and surrounding areas for the game Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Depending on conditions, the drive down to St. Paul, Minn., takes between six and seven hours.
“I think Reims has a good crew coming so it’s going to be exciting for him,” Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn said prior to the game. “It’s probably as close to a home game as he’s going to have.”
At that point, Schenn caught himself, just in time to avoid alienating hockey fans in Reimer’s home province. “Unless a team goes back to Winnipeg,” Schenn said.
WATCHING THE BOARD
Leafs fans have been doing it for weeks now and the players themselves are at the point where it’s next to impossible to resist themselves now that they are inside of 10 games remaining and have so much ground to make up.
“We try not to do any, but we start doing more now,” Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul said prior to a busy Tuesday night in which both of the teams immediately in front of the Leafs were also in action. “That’s just the reality of it.
“We’re a ways back and we’re not out of it by any means.”
Compounding the intensity, is the fact that so many teams, especially in the West, are also in the thick of a battle.
“That’s just the way it is down the stretch if you look around the league,” Lupul said. “If you look, Vancouver’s in, Detroit’s (almost) in, Philly’s in and not much more. After that it seems everyone is playing these must-win games, the West especially.”
The worst part for Clarke MacArthur is knowing that the Leafs are almost at the point where they need the teams they are chasing to slip up.
“Especially now you do,” MacArthur said. “You win one and the next one is even bigger. All we can ask for in these last eight or nine games we have left is to keep winning and hope the other teams slip up.”
Leafs coach Ron Wilson caught up with a friendly face in the Twin Cities. Wild radio analyst Tom Reid, who played for the old North Stars, used to babysit Wilson when both men lived in Fort Erie, Ont. Reid, is also the owner of a popular local watering hole, Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub in downtown St. Paul ... It will be just like old times for Leafs centre Tyler Bozak when the team practises Wednesday at the University of Denver. The Regina native played two seasons for the Pioneers before being signed by the Leafs. The team was scheduled to fly to Denver immediately following Tuesday’s game to prepare for a date with the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday ... The Wild was trying to avoid a franchise-record seventh consecutive loss against the Leafs ... As expected, defenceman Mike Komisarek, who is nursing a groin injury, was a Toronto scratch. Darryl Boyce, recovering from an upper body injury also did not dress.