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A blog on all things Toronto Maple Leafs

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Toronto Maple Leafs players Nazem Kadri (L) and Dion Phaneuf react after Phaneuf scored a second period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during their NHL hockey game in Raleigh, North Carolina March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier (ELLEN OZIER)
Toronto Maple Leafs players Nazem Kadri (L) and Dion Phaneuf react after Phaneuf scored a second period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during their NHL hockey game in Raleigh, North Carolina March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier (ELLEN OZIER)

The Leafs' last stand Add to ...

By now, you've all likely heard the scenario.

The Toronto Maple Leafs head into tonight's game with the Washington Capitals hoping to stave off mathematical elimination one more night, with a regulation or overtime win essential to doing so.

They need help from down the QEW highway, too, as the Buffalo Sabres can't gain a point in their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning or, again, the Leafs are done.

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Both games start at 7 p.m. tonight, which adds to the intrigue.

It all likely doesn't matter much given Toronto's playoff chances are down to a ridiculous 0.136-per-cent chance, but at least in terms of the math, there's a decent chance that drops to zero tonight and the real postmortems will begin on Wednesday.

We'll see.

The Leafs once again didn't hold a morning skate today, preferring to get some of that extra rest that coach Ron Wilson talked about yesterday, which left only the Capitals to talk about how desperate a team they feel they'll be facing tonight.

"They have to have every point," winger Brooks Laich said. "They have to have every point in regulation the next three games and then hope for the best. This is an elimination game for the Leafs and they're going to show us their absolute best.

"For us it's a good challenge. We still have some goals in mind, too, so this will be a good hockey game."

The Capitals lead the season series so far, going 2-0-1, but two of the games have gone to 5-4 shootouts, so it could again be a barn burner. Toronto is 18-7-5 since the all-star break while Washington is 19-7-2 in that same stretch.

"They never give up, they never quit and I think the city should be real proud of the second half that they've put forth," said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, a Toronto native who played for the Leafs and said he still frequently watches their games.

The Caps have scored only four more goals than the Leafs this season (212 to 208) but have allowed a whopping 49 fewer as they've transformed into one of the league's better defensive teams.

"The last couple games we've been playing teams that are desperate," centre Nick Backstrom said. "Toronto's been playing good, too, so it's a good challenge for us."

"I'm sure tonight will be more of a playoff style game," Jason Arnott added.

James Reimer will once again get the start for the Leafs, doing so for the 21st time in the last 22 games. He'll square off against fellow rookie Michal Neuvirth, who for all the talk about the Caps' goaltending situation has played pretty well in going 26-11-4.

The scratches for Toronto will be Freddy Sjostrom, Brett Lebda and Jonas Gustavsson, while Alex Semin will not play for the Caps. Matt Hendricks returns to the lineup in his spot.

 

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