TORONTO - Around this time last year, Maple Leafs fans had visions of the Big-E landing in Toronto as an early Christmas present but the Philadelphia Flyers weren't in the gift-giving mood.
So started the fiasco that became the Eric Lindros incident. One almost-completed trade, too many mud-slinging interviews and thousands upon thousands of rumours had every print, radio and TV reporter salivating.
This year is different, Lindros has found a new team in the New York Rangers and he appears to be flourishing, leading the team in scoring. The Leafs will find out how adjusted he really is during a tough home-and-home series, which starts Thursday night at Madison Square Gardens and finishes Saturday at Air Canada Centre.
| Lindros is leading the way in New York |
(Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
The Rangers are coming off a poor outing- a 5-2 thumping by the Washington Capitals-but unlike that past few seasons, the team is enjoying success. New York is leading the Atlantic Division with 37 points, two more than the Leafs but they hold two games in hand.
The new look Rangers enter the series winning 13 of their last 16, in large part because of Lindros and the rejuvenated goaltending of Mike Richter. Toronto will have to regenerate some energy of their own if they hope to slow the Rangers' rebuilding process.
The Leafs should be able to take advantage of New York's lack of balanced scoring. Lindros, Theo Fleury and Mike York have been flying, contributing most of the offense while Petr Nedved and Mark Messier remain relatively silent, notching just 10 goals combined.
Even if Lindros wasn't playing well, which isn't the case, he may be more apt to dig up some extra effort against the Leafs. Chances are he will want to prove to GM/coach Pat Quinn that he is worth more than he was offering in trade talks with the Flyers, concussion or no concussion.
If that comes to pass, the Leafs could be in trouble considering their effort against the Penguins Tuesday night. Toronto had little to offer in the first two periods and by the time they took control, goalie Johan Hedberg matched them every step of the way.
Toronto topped New York in their season series last year (3-0-0-1) and the Rangers will be looking for a little revenge. It's clear that this home-and-home series will be important for both teams.
On the upside the Leafs, are coming off a home-and-home sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks last weekend and they appear to play better in tougher situations. NOTES:
Mikael Renberg has an infection in his foot after taking a slash last Saturday night. He played through the pain on Tuesday but was obviously hampered. Antibiotics are being used to alleviate the infection but because of that Renberg is unable to use pain-killing needles. He will continue treatment and is likely to play Thursday.