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Leafs Hope To Keep Climbing Ladder

by Matt Iaboni / Toronto Maple Leafs

Following a well-deserved day off, the Maple Leafs were on the ice Monday preparing for the home-and-home against division rival Buffalo which begins the second half of the season.

“We’ve set ourselves up now that with a solid second half we can be in the playoffs and now I think we start striving to be one of the top teams like Boston or New York that are in that top tier,” Joffrey Lupul said.

The Leafs currently sit six points ahead of the Sabres but head coach Ron Wilson realizes that the Leafs need to keep winning to stay ahead other teams, not just Buffalo.

“I wouldn’t be thinking we need to bury Buffalo because you focus on that and a couple of other teams slip by you,” Wilson said. “We just have to get the points ourselves and if we do it against a team chasing us all the better but it’s just the points.”

Following a feverish rally for the playoffs late last season that came up short, Lupul realizes how hard and demoralizing it is to try and play catchup.

“It’s tough especially with all the three-point games,” he said.  “Last year we would win four out of five games and only gain a point on teams and it could get pretty frustrating if you get back there,” Lupul noted.

The Leafs’ first-line left winger was named the NHL’s Second Star Of The Week after recording seven points in three games. Lupul gave credit to his linemates for his success this season.

“Phil (Kessel) has been playing great all year, Connolly has stepped in with Bozak going down and it doesn’t seem to matter who is centering us they both have done just a great job,” Lupul said.

Lupul enters Tuesday’s game against Buffalo fourth in the NHL in points and he is on pace for 94 points which would almost double his career-high of 53 that he set in 2005-06. Despite that he doesn’t put himself in the class of some of the players in the scoring race.
“When I look at the other guys at the top there, the Sedin brothers, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, I still don’t put myself in that category as far as scoring,” Lupul admitted.

Notes: Mike Brown came out of Saturday’s action against Detroit 100 per cent in his first game since mid-November. “It felt great,” Brown admitted. “I was a little rusty in the first but felt great in the second and third.” Wilson said that Tyler Bozak skated on his own prior to practice and is at least a week away while there wasn’t anything new on the John-Michael Liles front.

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