March 23, 2011
Leafs not taking Avs lightly
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
The Colorado Avalanche may be scraping towards the bottom of the Western Conference but the Leafs know they are facing a young and potentially dangerous opponent at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night.
“They’ve won their last two games and last night they played the role of spoiler with Columbus in weird fashion,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Wilson and assistant Rob Zettler were following the game on the internet before their plane left Minneapolis on Tuesday and saw that Columbus was up by a goal with seven seconds left just as the connection went out. When they landed in Denver, the learned the Avalanche were winners.
“We just played a team (Tuesday), Minnesota, that two weeks ago was in fifth place,” Wilson said. “All of a sudden, everything has fallen apart on them so you never know.”
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf says the team can’t afford to take any opponent lightly with just eight games remaining.
“We’re playing a team that’s out of it right now, but they’re a very dangerous team,” Phaneuf said. “They are fast and young and usually play well at home.”
THIS IS FOR REAL
Wilson isn’t buying the perception that the team’s recent success is merely the latest late-season rally that ultimately will end in futility.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is finishing strong in our last 12 games,” Wilson said. “We’ve been going hard for 35 or 40 games. That’s what makes us feel so good right now. We’re in a playoff race and we’re not collapsing when everyone thinks we should and we’re getting better every game. That’s huge for us going forward.”
There is a misconception that the Leafs’ 3-0 win over the Wild on Tuesday allowed them to “keep pace” with Carolina and Buffalo in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The math, of course, suggests that nothing could be further from the truth. With only eight games remaining, starting with Thursday’s date against the Avalanche, holding serve won’t cut it.
That said, with the two teams directly in front of them — Buffalo and Carolina — not in action until Friday, the Leafs have a chance to pull within three points of the final spot with a win against the Avalanche and put a little heat on them.
Buffalo plays host to Florida on Friday while Carolina travels to Tampa to face the Lightning.
The annual Leafs rookie camp and tournament will move the other direction on the 401 next September. Rather than London, Ont. where it was this past year, the event will take place at General Motors Centre in Oshawa and will include the Leafs rookies along with those from the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks ... Defenceman Mike Komisarek didn’t seem to be favouring his groin during a high-tempo Leafs practice Thursday at the University of Denver, former home to Leafs centre Tyler Bozak. Wilson said that the status of Komisarek and forward Darryl Boyce (upper body) will be a game-time decision ... In his last nine road games, Leafs goalie James Reimer has a 7-0-1 record with a 2.16 goals against average. Accordingly, the Leafs are 7-2-2 in their past 11 away from the Air Canada Centre.