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Toronto Maple Leafs Phil Kessel celebrates his goal with Matthew Lombardi (C) and Jake Gardiner (L) against the Edmonton Oilers as goalie Devan Dubnyk (bottom R) looks on during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto, February 6, 2012.


The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost enough games over the past three weeks that they're back in a familiar place late in the season.

They're the underdogs – and they're going to have to win regularly down the stretch here to make the postseason.

That makes games like Tuesday's against the Florida Panthers even bigger than they might otherwise be, with every loss putting the Leafs further and further from the race. (Not to mention the teams creeping up behind them.)

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As it is now, Toronto will have to win at least 11 or 12 of its final 20 games to make it, with 89 or 90 points the likely cut-off mark to sneak into eighth place. That's not impossible, but more than anything they'll need solid goaltending and to regain their scoring touch.

After a 1-7-1 slide over their last nine games, the Leafs have only a 30 per cent chance of making the playoffs, something that can be improved to close to 37 per cent with a win against a Panthers team they trail by five points.

"We want to make the playoffs," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "That's what you're in this for is to make the playoffs. So no matter what you think, you're always putting pressure on yourself to make the playoffs. There's a lot of teams in the same boat as we are.

"This should be pressure that you enjoy. You know you're going to be here and try to make the playoffs. This is positive pressure. Trade deadline is generally negative pressure."


- James Reimer will start in goal for the Leafs and will likely play the majority of Toronto's games the rest of the way. It'll be interesting if they turn to Jonas Gustavsson on Wednesday in Chicago in the second half of the back-to-back.

- Mike Komisarek and Joey Crabb come back into the lineup, with Cody Franson (who has posted a fairly big minus number in February) and Colby Armstrong sitting out. "It's very competitive on our back end," Wilson said. "[Komisarek has to]find a way to play better than anybody else on our back end. And he hasn't quite done that all the time."

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- Wilson will coach his 1,400th game against the Panthers, moving him into a tie for fourth place all time with Pat Quinn. "It's a lot of games, I can tell you that," Wilson said. "I'm proud to have coached 1,400, there's no doubt."

- Former Leafs winger Kris Versteeg is out with a lower body injury for Florida.

- Wilson expects the prospect the Leafs acquired on Monday, Carter Ashton, will play the rest of the season in the minors.

- After all the trade deadline deals around the league, Toronto sits tied as the NHL's second youngest team. Here's the full list.

Projected lineup

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Frattin Lombardi - Connolly - Kulemin Brown - Steckel - Crabb

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Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Gardiner - Schenn Liles - Komisarek


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