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Big Week Coming Up For Leafs

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
What you have to understand about head coaches is that they hate everything when they are losing.

They hate weather. They hate ice. They hate the jovial assassins from the media they must speak to on a daily basis. And, most of all, they hate their players…in much the same way we hate our kids when they thoughtlessly leave ghastly messes for which the coach, uh dad, will be accountable.

And so when Ron Wilson says media should not be able to watch practice (an age-old coaching argument, by the way), he doesn’t really mean it. If he did, he would have waited until his team was behind closed doors before chewing out Phil Kessel and everyone else wearing blue yesterday.

Besides, Wilson is a reasonable guy. He knows how many reporters schlep themselves to practice via early morning flights and endure endless urban junkets from cabbies who have no idea where they are going. And he gets the media is handy for keeping players accountable, at least when spurred on by an unhappy coach.

It promises to be a revelatory week for the Leafs who play five games in eight nights. All but one of their opponents has a winning record, Here’s a look at the upcoming games:

Tonight, Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena: Let’s see. The Sabres have beaten the Maple Leafs in nine straight games. They have won five in a row against everyone else. The Leafs will likely be without Mike Komisarek, he of the upper body injury. The original guess for Komisarek was two missed games. All that said, if the Leafs were to end their string of tepid play, epitomized by Wednesday’s putrid 6-2 loss in Philadelphia, this would be the place. The Sabres are bound to be overconfident if they have been paying any attention at all.

Saturday, Pittsburgh Penguins at ACC:  The Leafs have lost nine overtime games this season. The Penguins, just one.  That might have something to do with a roster that includes Sidney Crosby  (26 goals, 51 points) and Evgeny Malkin (13 goals, 41 points). Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has accrued middling numbers, a .903 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average.

Tuesday, Carolina Hurricanes at ACC: This is the closest the Leafs will have to a gimme game all season. They should be fresh, having played at home on Saturday and the Hurricanes, at this writing, trail Toronto by 10 points. They are last in the league in goals against, wins and power play percentage.

Thursday, Philadelphia Flyers at ACC:  Daniel Carsillo was the bully and the Leafs were the team that had sand kicked in their face in Philly on Wednesday although Jamal Mayers one-sided bout rectified things a mite. This should be a payback game for the Leafs, who lost their mojo in Philly as badly as they have all season.

Friday, Washington Capitals at Verizon Center:  Led by Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green, the Caps have the third most potent (23.1 per cent) power play in the league.  The Leafs’ kill rate of 69.7 per cent is last in the NHL. Does anybody smell fireworks?
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