BY: Jeff Schneberk
The boys of LeafLand are in for their biggest test in the schedule, the biggest chunk of games they’ve played in since the last seven games they played against the Boston Bruins last May. In fact the last game they play this week will be against those same Boston Bruins.
Leafs are right now, in the worst shape they’ve been since late in last year’s shortened season; they’ve been humbled now in four straight games and with every passing loss, it gets depressing listening to some people think that things are still under control. The team is still missing two of its top players, in Joffrey Lupul and Dave Bolland.
Well coming up beginning tomorrow night, it’s no mercy week starting with an encounter with the San Jose Sharks (1st place in the Pacific), then it’s the Dallas Stars (6th place in the Central), in Ottawa on Saturday night (6th in the Atlantic and only 3 games behind Toronto) and the grand finale, Sunday night against the 1st place in the Atlantic, Boston Bruins.
If there is one good thing about these four games, three of them are at home so there isn’t much travel time, except for when they head to the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. However if last Monday was any indication for this team that’s hurting more than it has ever been this season, that may not help much.
One week ago tonight, a shutout by Columbus was where it started.
The Maple Leafs returned to practice Monday as they prepared for a busy week.
Joffrey Lupul skated prior to practice as he makes his way back from a groin injury. He didn’t join the rest of the team for practice as he is expected to be out of the lineup a little while longer.
After missing Saturday’s game in Montreal, Cody Franson was held off the ice as a precaution with a lower body injury but he is expected to be available to play against the Sharks. Jay McClement also didn’t take part in practice but he too should be good to go for tomorrow’s game.
Nazem Kadri, one of the most talented centres on the team, and in the game, who had spent years in the doghouse with former coach Ron Wilson, said Monday that the losing skid the team is currently on is no big deal and is something that can be overcome.
“It’s just one of those bumps in the road,” he said. They are still getting opportunities to win these games but have been the victims of “a few unlucky bounces that are resulting in some timely goals for the opposition.”
Here are a few words from one of the healthy Leafs (or at least we think he still is healthy) Phil Kessel.