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Posted On Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 12:48 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs close in on playoffs, possible home ice

TORONTO -- When it comes to getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, James Reimer has no allegiance to his home province in Manitoba.

Reimer will definitely be cheering against the Winnipeg Jets while he tends goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Maple Leafs' magic number to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs is four, meaning any combination of points by Toronto and points lost by Winnipeg adding up to four puts Reimer's team into the postseason.

"If that's what needs to happen for us to get into the playoffs then it would be great if the Jets lose," Reimer said. "But you can't bank on that. You have to take care of your own business, so that's all we're focused on."

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Posted On Monday, 04.15.2013 / 12:16 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Fortunes have changed for Devils, Leafs in past year

TORONTO -- A year ago former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke described his team as being akin to an 18-wheel truck being driven over a cliff.

After a terrific start to the year, the Maple Leafs went into a tailspin that ultimately caused them to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh season in a row and cost coach Ron Wilson his job.

The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, went about their business as usual as one of the hardest-working and best defensive teams in the NHL, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Kings.

This year it's the Devils who resemble the 18-wheeler going off a cliff while the Maple Leafs, who have been transformed into a tough, hard-checking group by new coach Randy Carlyle, are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Devils are winless in their past nine games (0-5-4) and sit 11th in the Eastern Conference.


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Posted On Saturday, 04.13.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs, Canadiens ready for HNIC showdown

TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hooking up on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada is a special occasion for many – especially now that both organizations are prospering.

For a kid like Joe Colborne, who is trying to make his mark in the NHL, it is a bit of a dream come true.

For others, such as Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, it's just another day at the office.

"It's going to be very tough to have a pre-game nap today," said Colborne, who had his shares of ups and downs with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League this season before being recalled by the Maple Leafs on April 4. "There's such a buzz when you get to the rink; you can tell it's a big game. I'm ready to step into the rivalry and I know it's going to be a lot of fun."

The Canadiens, under new general manager Marc Bergevin, have been one of the NHL's biggest success stories this season. Through 40 games the Habs possess the fourth-best record in the league at 26-9-5 and sit second in the Eastern Conference behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins with 57 points. Toronto, meanwhile, appears poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and is fifth in the East at 22-13-5.

While the Maple Leafs are still without one of their best player, left wing Joffrey Lupul who is out with a suspected concussion, they got some good news that center Mikhail Grabovski is available for action. Carlyle wasn't sure if the Russian, who underwent a battery of tests in New York earlier in the week because of an infection, would dress, but did acknowledge Grabovski saves some of his best performances for his former team.

"The player is available and we will make out decision on tonight's lineup later this afternoon," Carlyle said. He added the results of the tests Grabovski took would not be available until Wednesday or Thursday.

Carlyle said he understands the fanfare that comes with a Montreal-Toronto matchup, but he said the team does its best not to get caught up in the extra hype.

"What we have tried to do is eliminate all the outside influences that take place," Carlyle said. "You can't ignore it, but you just try to focus on what you can control. Our preparation is paramount because we're a young team and we're learning how to prepare…how to push some of the things that normally would be front and center to the side. Believe me, there's as many things presented to me as the players; people looking for tickets to parking passes. Everybody thinks you have all this free time to concentrate on what their needs are."

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Posted On Monday, 04.08.2013 / 12:32 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs brace for matchup with Lundqvist

TORONTO -- It hasn't been the season many expected from the New York Rangers, but with goalie Henrik Lundqvist finding his game, the end result could be a good one.

Lundqvist was sensational Saturday, making 48 saves, including 20 in the third period, as the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. The Rangers, who are seventh in the Eastern Conference, go back to work Monday, starting a home-and-home set with the fifth-place Maple Leafs in Toronto.

New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said there is a certain comfort level the Rangers enjoy when Lundqvist is in the zone.

"You enjoy it, but you don't want to rely on it," McDonagh said. "To be a successful team you need to be fundamentally sound in your defensive zone and make smart plays with the puck. We just didn't do that enough last game and he was able to correct our mistakes."


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Posted On Thursday, 04.04.2013 / 12:40 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Reimer takes Maple Leafs' lack of deal in stride

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had an experienced goaltender on their shopping list at the NHL Trade Deadline. They didn't find the deal they were looking for.

James Reimer, now the No. 1 goalie for the Maple Leafs for the foreseeable future, spent his afternoon Wednesday -- trade deadline day -- shopping at the supermarket, stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Just another day in the life of a youngster trying to establish himself as a starter in the NHL.

Steve Mason, on the other hand, was presented a new opportunity, having been traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 24-year-old, who had 10 shutouts in his first NHL season and was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2008-09, joined a handful of his new teammates for the morning skate at Air Canada Centre on Thursday. He is expected to back up starter Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday when the Flyers play the Maple Leafs.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 12:18 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs need more goals out of van Riemsdyk

TORONTO -- Randy Carlyle didn't beat around the bush.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs coach was asked what he needed from James van Riemsdyk, he smiled and said, "Goals."

The 23-year-old right wing will try to snap a five-game pointless drought Thursday night when the Maple Leafs host the Carolina Hurricanes -- two teams battling for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Carolina defeated Toronto in the teams' previous two meetings this season.

Van Riemsdyk is third in Toronto scoring with 14 goals and 22 points in 34 games, but has one assist in his past seven games.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:06 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs say they won't take Panthers lightly

TORONTO -- There's nothing like taking three of four points from the Boston Bruins to give an emerging team confidence. And the Toronto Maple Leafs know there's nothing like losing at home to the 30th place team in the NHL to throw that credibility out the window.

That's why the Maple Leafs insist they are not taking the Florida Panthers lightly.

"There might be the temptation to take them lightly, but we're not going to let that get into our heads," Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser said. "We got three of four points from a really good team, and now we're going to try to carry the momentum over into tonight's home game. We know we have to get the two points."

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Quote of the Day

Unless he really collapses, I don't see him going anywhere. I've been very impressed with his composure and maturity. Once the regular season started, he was a different guy; it was like game on and almost as if he's been around for a long time.

— Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon on rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad
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