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The Look Ahead

'Canes, Sabres aim to ride their goalies into playoffs Add to ...

There is no comfort zone right now, is there?

“Nobody gets to seventh, eighth or even sixth and starts feeling comfortable,” says Carolina Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice, whose team is one of a group bunched together trying to land the final playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

“I mean, it’s not like there’s a favourable matchup out there. Things keep changing.”

What won’t be changing for both the Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres – who both stand in the way of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ charge to the postseason – is the goaltending.

The Hurricanes will end a four-day break Wednesday by playing the Atlanta Thrashers, and Maurice said publicly on Sunday that he will rely on Cam Ward down the stretch, even in the six sets of back-to-back games.

The Sabres also have six remaining sets of back-to-backers, and will be leaning on Ryan Miller.

The Leafs will be watching to see how rookie James Reimer rebounds from being pulled Saturday – the guess here is he does so with aplomb – and if Toronto fans are looking for something to hang their hats on, they might consider this: Unlike the Canes and Sabres, the Leafs have just two more sets of games on consecutive games, including one next week. That ought to be a boon for Reimer, and might be the closest thing the Leafs find to a comfort zone.

CLEANING UP

The Toronto Blue Jays are focusing on base-path awareness this spring, and not just when it comes to stealing bases. As Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated points out, the Blue Jays were third-worst in the major leagues in scoring from second base on a single. The Blue Jays’ 51.9 per-cent rate was just ahead of the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners and well behind the 67.6 per cent of the leading Los Angeles Dodgers. … Catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., has suddenly become one of the most important pieces of the New York Yankees. With Francisco Cervelli out with a broken foot and Jorge Posada a full-time designated hitter, Martin and his sore right knee will get an increased workload in the Grapefruit League. He and highly-touted prospect Jesus Montero are now both likely to go north with the team. … There are signs that the Miami Heat’s Big 3 are having chemistry problems. Dwyane Wade has suggested he believes there is sometimes too much emphasis in games on establishing Chris Bosh inside, to the detriment of himself and LeBron James. The Heat play the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. … Every team seems to have a uniform number with unusual significance to its history. For the St. Louis Blues, it is No. 7. On Monday night at Scottrade Center, the Blues will hold a most cool pregame ceremony honouring four players who have worn that number: Joey Mullen, Garry Unger, Keith Tkachuk and Red Berenson.

THREE FOR THREE

35-for-35

DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors hasn’t missed from the free-throw line in his past nine games heading into the club’s game Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre against the Utah Jazz.

4

Number of double-digit leads blown by the Miami Heat since Feb. 24, going into their game Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

51

The NBA single-season record for consecutive games with a double/double (points and rebounds), set in 1978-79 by Moses Malone. Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves can tie the record Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks and break it Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.

QUOTABLE

“I’m still friends with those guys, don’t get me wrong, but I haven’t been with them for about a year now, and I’m on a team that may play them again. You never know.”

- Philadelphia Flyers forward Kris Versteeg explains why he will not join other members of the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup winners on Friday when they visit the White House to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. Also not expected to attend is Nick Boynton, another former Blackhawks player with the Flyers.

THE FINAL WORD

“Decade.”

As in its been more than 10 years since German Bundesliga power Bayern Munich has lost three consecutive games in any competition, and it’s 50/50 whether coach Louis Van Gaal gets to avoid a fourth consecutive loss on Saturday against Hamburg. “We’re now in a situation which is very worrying for Bayern Munich,” says chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “We have to sleep on it and see how we proceed.” Bayern is five points out of an automatic Champions League berth – which carries a significant financial reward – and Rummenigge is clearly in no mood for a repeat of what he described as “eight catastrophic days.”

 

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