Wednesday's Paul Maurice | Alex Steen | Jeremy Williams(TORONTO)
- After falling short the last two years in their bid to make the playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs have once again backed themselves into a corner.
“I’m aware of the situation that we’re in but I also know that we play some of the teams that we’re chasing and those are going to be huge games,” Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice said after Wednesday’s practice.
There was one player absent from practice as Ian White was at home with a flu bug that Maurice doesn’t expect will keep the d-man out of Thursday’s line-up.
“We try to keep these guys away from everyone else,” Maurice said. “I think everyone’s had it, (hopefully), and we expect him to play.”
Tuesday night the Leafs welcomed Alexei Ponikarovsky back into the fold. A day later the forward said that he felt great after being out an injury scratch for four games.
“I felt fine and I didn’t feel any discomfort of doing contact so no fear or nothing.”
The Leafs play Thursday, against the Boston Bruins who are one of the better defensive teams in the NHL and a team the Leafs find in front of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
“Overall they’ve really gone to that New Jersey, Montreal style of game,” Maurice said. (Bruins head coach) Claude (Julien) has done a great job getting players like Marc Savard and the likes to really commit to that type of game.”
It won’t be an easy game for the Leafs who face a Bruins team coming off two straight losses including a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Monday.
“Usually they are low scoring affairs with not many chances to score and a bit of a grind,” Maurice noted.
Regardless of the opponent, anything less then two points won’t be good enough for the Leafs and that is something that isn’t lost on the players.
“We have a big challenge against Boston and you just make sure you take care of yourself,” forward Jason Blake said. “We understand that Philadelphia and Buffalo have a game in hand but we can’t worry about what goes on with them.”
Although all the teams in front of them have at least one game in-hand, the Leafs final 14 games are against teams from the Eastern Conference.
“We’re playing our division and conference the last 14 games and basically every game is important,” Ponikarovsky said. “We play Buffalo three times, Philadelphia two times so it will be important to win those games.”
Many of the players deny looking at the standings for different reasons.
“I don’t crunch the math,” Blake said. “It’s obvious what we have to do.” Alexei Ponikarovsky added, “I don’t do the math because I’ve never been good at math.”