TORONTO – As the Toronto Maple Leafs’ faint playoff hopes hang in the balance, Phil Kessel is expected play Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
Kessel suffered a bruised right foot when he was hit with a pass from James van Riemsdyk in the second period Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings. He did not practise Monday, but coach Randy Carlyle said he’s available to play.
“It’s been, I guess, two days of treatment and he’s telling us he’s ready,” Carlyle said.
Kessel, the Leafs’ leading scorer with 36 goals, 41 assists and 77 points, has just two goals and two assists during Toronto’s eight-game losing streak. Toronto has not picked up a point since March 13 in Los Angeles to fall from second place in the Atlantic Division to out of a playoff spot.
Winger Joffrey Lupul said after the crushing loss to Detroit on Saturday night that he and his teammates would likely have to win out and get help to make the playoffs. Asked Tuesday morning if the playoffs were still a realistic possibility, Carlyle brought the focus back to the Flames game.
“It’s realistic if you win,” Carlyle said. “We’ve got to win the first one, that’s the bottom line. We can’t look past tonight. … We need to win a hockey game, and the first one we need to win is tonight.”
With the entire roster available to him, Carlyle said there could be lineup changes. He’s contemplating going with 11 forwards and seven defencemen, which would mean the return of injured defenceman Paul Ranger.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier is set to make his fourth straight start since returning from a groin injury. Bernier has allowed four goals in each of his past three games.
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