Leafs' playoff hope all but dead

Maple Leafs defenceman John-Michael Liles takes Bruins forward Milan Lucic for a ride at the Air...

Maple Leafs defenceman John-Michael Liles takes Bruins forward Milan Lucic for a ride at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., March 6, 2012. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

TORONTO - Their playoff hopes all but dead, perhaps an injury to Joffrey Lupul will be the final nail for the Maple Leafs.

Lupul left a 5-4 loss against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night in the second period, favouring his right arm or shoulder after a collision with David Krejci.

With 67 points in 66 games, Lupul has been one of the Leafs’ most consistent forwards along with Phil Kessel in 2011-12.

Another veteran, Colby Armstrong, was beaten badly by Bruins defenceman Dennis Seidenberg in a second-period fight and also did not return. Mostly because of various injuries, including a concussion, Armstrong has played in just 19 games this season.

“Lupes has been a huge part of our team and Army is a guy who has not been in a lot due to injury, but he plays hard for us,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “Two guys who are tough to lose, but injuries are part of the game and you can’t use them as an excuse because they happen to every team. Guys who come in have to step up.”

Coach Randy Carlyle couldn’t confirm how long Lupul and Armstrong, who had an issue with his nose, will be out of the lineup. The Leafs will be cautious with Armstrong thanks to his recent concussion history.

But the equipment of both players hung in an otherwise empty dressing room, so neither will play against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

Joey Crabb will draw back in, but the status of Mike Brown is unclear. A player could be recalled from the Toronto Marlies.

Lupul, Kessel, Phaneuf and Nikolai Kulemin are the only Leafs to play in all 66 games this season.

POINT SHOTS

As much as a new coach can bring fresh air to a team, after a while it can go stale. That’s not to say Carlyle won’t have a long-term positive influence, but it’s simply too early to assume as much. There is plenty of defensive work to be done, and the young tandem of Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn had an especially difficult night. Schenn was flat-footed at times, while Gardiner, who mostly has played beyond his 21 years, was entranced by the puck ... Jay Rosehill did what was expected of him and fought with Shawn Thornton in the second period, a scrap that highlighted Rosehill’s first game with the Leafs since Jan. 17. We understand the desire for truculence, belligerence, focused physical play, but Rosehill is too one-dimensional to make a real impact. Thornton has four goals and seven assists, modest numbers that Rosehill can only dream of ... If the Kessel/Tyler Seguin story doesn’t bother Leafs general manager Brian Burke, then perhaps Nazem Kadri/Jordan Caron does. While Kadri tries to find his professional identity with the Toronto Marlies, Caron has been in the Bruins’ lineup for a month and scored a pair of goals against the Leafs. Kadri was selected seventh overall by the Leafs in 2009, Caron 25th overall that year by the Bruins ... Armstrong got a rude surprise when Seidenberg, who had all of 30 penalty minutes in his previous 64 games this season, used Armstrong’s head as a punching bag. Armstrong left a blood trail on the ice ... That really was Tim Connolly hog-tying Brad Marchand and throwing him to the ice as the second period ended. Where has that strength been from Connolly when he is battling for pucks along the boards and in the corners? ... Safe not to go on early impressions. The Leafs were sharp for the opening 10 minutes and out-played the visitors. But the Bruins’ experience took over and they carried the play through the end of the second period.

FROM THE HASH MARKS

Ron Wilson usually came to the defence of Kulemin whenever it was suggested that Kulemin was struggling to put the puck in the net, reminding those around him that Kulemin was doing other things that some wouldn’t notice. There was Kulemin, who has seven goals in 66 games after netting 30 in 82 games last season, knocking big Milan Lucic off the puck to help set up the Leafs’ first-period goal ... Five reasons there was no way the Leafs were going to let Mikhail Grabovski go to free agency this summer: Daymond Langkow, Jarret Stoll, Jochen Hecht, Jiri Hudler and Jason Arnott. They’re among the highest-paid centres in the NHL headed for free agency on July 1. There won’t be much available, and if Burke overpaid for Grabovski now (which he did at five years and $27.5 million US), it’s still smarter than getting into a bidding war with other clubs in the summer. The dollars don’t make a ton of sense, but the Leafs are better off now than they would be losing Grabovski and settling for something not as good. Grabovski did not do much until he scored a beautiful goal in the third period ... Carlyle and his right-hand man, assistant coach Dave Farrish, are about as inseparable as they come. Not only has Farrish become a member of Carlyle’s coaching staff in Toronto as he was in Anaheim, the two are cottage neighbours on Manitoulin Island ... Strangely, there was little recognition from the crowd of 19,684 at the ACC when Carlyle and Farrish were welcomed back to Toronto on the videoboard during a stoppage in play.


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