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Maple Leafs close in on playoffs, possible home ice

by Mike Brophy /

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."

Not only are the Maple Leafs focused on trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, they now have a shot of getting home-ice advantage in the first round. Toronto trails the stumbling Montreal Canadiens by four points and each team has five games remaining. Reimer said he and his teammates are keenly aware of the situation.

"Any time you can catch the team ahead of you, whether you are going from eighth to seventh place or second to first, that's what you are focused on," Reimer said. "They have had a series of unfortunate games, and that is good for us. If we win tonight, we close the gap on them."

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle does not afford himself the luxury of talking playoffs. Instead, he said his staff's focus is on the game against the Islanders, and he makes no bones about the fact he is not pleased with what he has seen from his team in the past two games: a 2-0 win over the New Jersey Devils in a contest which the Maple Leafs were severely outshot, and a 5-1 loss at the Washington Capitals.

"We're a skating hockey club, and we have to skate," Carlyle said. "We have to have a workmanlike attitude shift in and shift out, and when the opportunity presents itself we have to be physical. We need to play a better brand of hockey than we did in our last six periods or we're not going anywhere. That's our focus, to get our team back to the level we are capable of playing at. The last six periods for us are not periods that we would be proud of."

The Islanders also are in a playoff battle, sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a point behind the sixth-place Ottawa Senators and three points ahead of the eighth place Rangers. At 12-5-2, the Islanders have the sixth-best road record in the NHL.

"We know what the circumstances are this time of year with a lot of big games and teams are really tight," Islanders alternate captain John Tavares said. "There's a lot up for grabs for both teams tonight. We're not quite there yet, but we're getting closer to the goal we have been trying to accomplish for a while. I think we have proven what we are capable of, but we still haven't accomplished anything yet."


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Nikolai Kulemin

Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matt Frattin

Leo Komarov - Jay McClement - Colton Orr

Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf

Mark Fraser - Cody Franson

John-Michael Liles - Ryan O'Byrne

James Reimer

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Joe Colborne, Ryan Hamilton, Michael Kostka

Injured: Carl Gunnarsson (lower body)


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Brad Boyes

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner - Keith Aucoin - Colin McDonald

Jesse Joensuu - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic

Mark Streit - Matt Carkner

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Radek Martinek, Anders Lee, Eric Boulton, Brian Strait, Joe Finley

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