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A Tough Road Ahead For Leafs

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 4:58 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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A Tough Road Ahead For Leafs

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VIDEO: Wilson | MacArthur | Kadri | Brown | Komisarek
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It goes like this.

Tuesday, the Maple Leafs play a Minnesota Wild team coming off an 8-1 shellacking administered Sunday by the Montreal Canadiens.
Minnesota Wild
Last Game: Sunday, lost 8-1 to Montreal
Record: 35-30-8, 78 points, 11th in West
Goals For, Against: 185-204
Home Record: 17-14-5, 12th in West
Last 10: 2-6-2
Power Play: 19.4, 7th in West.
Penalty Kill: 83.3, 4th in conference.
Leading Scorer: Martin Havlat, 21g-39a-60p.
Top Goalie Niklas Backstrom, 21-19-5, 2.51 GAA, .920.

Colorado Avalanche
Last Game: Colorado 3, Edmonton 2 (SO)
Record: 27-36-8, 62 points, 14th in West
Goals For, Against: 198-250
Home Record: 14-17-4, 14th in West
Last 10: 1-8-1
Power Play: 18.4, 8th in conference
Penalty Kill: 76.7, 15th in conference
Leading Scorer: Matt Duchene: 23-33-56
Top Goalie Brian Elliott, 14-24-9, 2.51, .893

Detroit Red Wings
Last Game: lost 3-1 to Nashville, Saturday
Record: 43-21-8, 94 points, 2nd in West
Goals For, Against: 233-204
Home Record: 19-11-4, 10th in West
Last 10: 5-3-2
Power Play: 21.5 percent, 5th in conference
Penalty Kill: 83.1, 5th in conference
Leading Scorer: Henrik Zetterberg, 20-52-72
Top Goalie Jimmy Howard: 34-14-5, 2.74, .910

Thursday, a trip to Denver and a chance to play the wobbling Avalanche.

Saturday, judgment day in Detroit.

If the Leafs can come back with three wins, they will carry vital momentum into their last six games.

The Maple Leafs sit five points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have 10 games left, the Leafs nine.

The Maple Leafs are two points behind ninth place Carolina. That said, they stand only a pair of points in front of New Jersey and Atlanta.

The immediate concern, of course, is the Wild.

“They’re desperate and we know they’ll play a good game,” said goalie James Reimer.

“When a team has lost the way they did, they are going to be worried about all the little things,” said forward Clarke MacArthur. “They will be tough to play.”

“They won’t want to play poorly after being shelled 8-1,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “We sure aren’t going to win 8-1 but we are hoping to get out with a victory."

Obscured by the team’s up and down fortunes has been a dry spell endured by MacArthur and his linemates Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.

As the season has progressed, the trio has found life as the team’s most effective line has produced unintended consequences. The trio has scored just one goal in the last four games.

“We are playing against the top pairings and good checking lines,” MacArthur said. “With the chances we’ve had, they just haven’t gone in. We’ve got to bang in a few ugly goals.”

Wilson agreed that most games won’t evolve like Saturday’s where five different low-scoring players, Nazem Kadri, Mike Brown, Joey Crabb, Luke Schenn and Keith Aulie, went home with goals. The emphasis, Wilson acknowledged, is to get the goal scorers scoring goals.

“Those guys are in a mini slump,” Wilson said of the Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur trio. “I think they are personally frustrated and hopefully they will dig in.”

Meanwhile, defenceman Mike Komisarek skated with the team and insists he will be ready to play after a minor groin injury.

“I hope to get in there and keep getting better,” said Komisarek. “It’s a minor thing, not a major issue. I tweaked it a bit.”

“He might not be ready tomorrow but he will play on the road trip,” said Wilson who has used Brett Lebda as a replacement.

Notes: There was no shortage of opinion on the latest incident involving Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke who elbowed the Rangers  Ryan McDonagh on Sunday. “He deliberately tried to hurt someone,” said MacArthur. “How many times does he get another chance? It’s the talk of our dressing room. It’s always the same guy.” Said checking forward Joey Crabb: "I thought it was pretty dirty. It wasn’t a super fast play. He didn’t even make contact with his body.” Hardnosed checker Mike Brown agreed:  “He had a lot of time to see what he wanted to do. You can see the elbow come out.” Grabovski saw a bright side as he surveyed the Leafs dressing room: “it’s good for reporters.”

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