TORONTO – Jerry D’Amigo has watched the Toronto Maple Leafs’ seven-game losing streak from the nearby Marlies of the AHL. In a hockey market like this, it’s impossible to avoid hearing all about it.
Now D’Amigo will likely be thrust into the lineup against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night to try to do his part—however small it might be—to end the skid and save the Leafs’ playoff hopes.
“I’m not trying to solve the whole thing here,” D’Amigo said. “I’m just going to put in my best effort and give the guys some energy here. Hopefully (raise) them up a little bit.”
Unless D’Amigo manages to score or create a big goal, it’ll take much more than a fourth-line energy guy to make the Leafs rise up and find a consistent level of play that has been lacking of late, even against a banged-up opponent.
If there’s any time to find that extra gear, it’s against a Red Wings team the Leafs are tied with at 80 points.
“Obviously we’ve been fighting it of late,” winger Mason Raymond said. “But this is a team we are battling with for a playoff spot. They’ve been doing well of late so we have quite the test ahead of us.”
Figuring 92 points as a legitimate target to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, a loss to the Red Wings at Air Canada Centre would just about force the Leafs to win out in their final six games. A victory and some help from the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals puts Toronto right back into it.
Coach Randy Carlyle knows this is a difficult spot but doesn’t find it difficult to remain positive when speaking with his players.
“This isn’t a fun place to be right now, I’ll tell you that, and there’s pressure being applied in different areas, but the No. 1 thing that we have to do is we have to focus on self-improvement by a certain amount, and that will help the team grow,” Carlyle said.
The Red Wings haven’t been in a tailspin like the Leafs, but they’ve been in the thick of this playoff race long enough to know what to expect Saturday night.
“They need a win and we need a win and that’s been the case each night we’ve played probably for 20 games,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “So we’re used to the environment we’re in. It should be a lot of fun here tonight. They need a win and we need a win, it’s just that simple.”
NOTES—Jonathan Bernier is expected to be in goal for the Leafs, which would mark the first time this season he starts on back-to-back days. Jimmy Howard starts for Detroit. … Toronto is 6-9 in the second half of back-to-back games, including losses in the last two of those situations. … Defenceman Paul Ranger (neck) is “an option” for the Leafs, according to Carlyle. If Ranger plays, it could mean going back to 11 forwards and seven defencemen, though it was not clear which forward would come out of the lineup.