It's crunch time for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are still six points back of eighth place Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference, and are headed to Boston to meet the Bruins endeavoring to close the gap on the Flyers for the final playoff spot.
Trouble is, with only 14 games to go, time is running out for Toronto.
Toronto sits in a 12th place tie with the Florida Panthers at 68 points. Boston, meanwhile, are deadlocked with the New York Rangers for sixth in the conference with 74 points.
Add to the fact that three teams, the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, and Washington Capitals are ahead of them in the standings, and their task becomes even tougher.
The good news for the Maple Leafs is they'll be facing a Bruins squad in a fragile state these days--Boston has lost two straight, including a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Monday.
In that game, Bruins netminder Tim Thomas surrendered seven goals on only 24 shots.
It would behoove the Maple Leafs to shoot from anywhere on Thomas, including from the proverbial rafters at the TC Banknorth Garden--especially, when the goalie appears to be fighting the puck.
It should be noted that it was one game and Thomas still has the third best save percentage (.922) in the NHL. Only Pittsburgh's Ty Conklin (.927) and Columbus' Pascal Leclaire (.923) are ahead of Thomas.
The Maple Leafs can't afford to lose any more ground in the standings, especially to another conference foe.
At this juncture of the season, most teams are scoreboard watching--the Maple Leafs are no exception. Toronto center Matt Stajan said you can't help but check out what's happening out-of-town.
"Obviously, it's flashing up there on the scoreboard," he told the Star's Mark Zwolinski after Monday's 4-1 defeat to the New Jersey Devils. "A couple of minutes left in the game and you kind of see it up there. But, we can't let us get us down."
While Stajan and his mates play the Bruins, no doubt they'll be keeping a close eye on two other games on today’s NHL docket.
Tampa Bay is in Philadelphia, while the Rangers travel to Uniondale to face the Islanders.
Both games have major ramifications to a Leafs team whose playoff lives are hanging by a thread.