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While I know Toronto Maple Leafs fans' anguish pales in comparison to those poor Chicago Cubs fans, one has to start wondering if it could possibly get any worse than it is right now.
With Saturday's loss to Detroit – their 8th in a row – Toronto has found itself on the outside of the playoff picture, with little chance of getting back in. They're only technically two points out of eighth, but all three teams immediately above them have two games in hand. If the Boys in Blue have any hope, they need to win the remainder of their six games.
Their schedule does not suggest this is likely – games against Boston and Tampa Bay are almost certainly losses for the Leafs at this point.
The saddest thing, though, is the dejected attitude that is all over the city.
Remember two years ago? Ron Wilson had the club humming, sitting pretty en route to their first playoff berth in years. Then, a 1-9-1 disaster led to the Leafs plummeting through the standings to end up in 12th. Ron Wilson was relieved of his duties, and Randy Carlyle was brought on.
Do I even have to bring up what happened a year ago? Game seven, up 4-1 with just over 10 minutes to go? What should have been a piece of historic Leafs glory – coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games would have been just the thing needed to exorcise the demons of the past decade. Instead, the Leafs imploded before our very eyes, in majestic fashion. It was so bad, Boston fans didn't even rub it in – instead, they commiserated with us. There was no chorus of "We are the Champions" – no, no. It was more of an arm around the shoulders; a sympathetic "geez, sorry about that".
This year? We got to watch a team, who had a very real chance at home ice advantage in the first round against either Montreal or Tampa Bay, lose eight straight and eliminate themselves.
It's so bad that my friend, the lonely Islander fan, came up to me and said this:
"I never thought I would feel bad for you [as a Leafs fan] but dammit, I do."
And there you have it. Islanders' fans feeling bad for the Leafs. That's what we've become.
I'm now going to go into the garage and dust off the golf clubs. I'm pretty sure there's 23 other guys that have beaten me to it today.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid
Injury News For Teams Playing Sunday
Adam McQuaid, D - McQuaid (quad), who hasn't played in a game since January 19, is "being ramped up right now, off ice," according to coach Claude Julien, the Bruins' official site reports. (3/29/2014)
Marc Savard, C - The Bruins are expected to place Savard (concussion) on Long-Term Injured Reserve, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reports. (7/6/2013)
Dennis Seidenberg, D - Head coach Claude Julien didn't rule out Seidenburg (lower body) returning if the Bruins make a deep run in the playoffs, Joe Haggerty of CSN New England reports. (3/21/2014)
Steve Downie, RW - Downie (head) took part in practice Saturday, Sarah Baiker of CSNPhilly.com reports. (3/29/2014)
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D - Bourdon has suffered a setback in his recovery from concussion issues and is out indefinitely for AHL Adirondack, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (2/22/2014)
Ladislav Smid, D - Smid suffered an upper-body injury during Friday's game against the Rangers and will not return, NHL.com's Aaron Vickersreports. (3/28/2014)
Dennis Wideman, D - Coach Bob Hartley said Wideman's (upper body) rehab program has been shut down, making him unlikely to return this season. (3/20/2014)
David Jones, RW - Jones (upper body) skated on his own Thursday for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury March 3, NHL.com's Aaron Vickers reports. (3/27/2014)
Markus Granlund, C - Granlund (shoulder) skated on his own Wednesday morning, Aaron Vickers of NHL.com reports. (3/26/2014)
Michael Ferland, LW - Ferland underwent knee surgery Saturday and is expected to miss the rest of the season, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan reports. (1/18/2014)
Patrick Sieloff, D - After missing the first half of the season with a staph infection, Sieloff has been cleared for off-ice activities, the Calgary Sun reports. (1/17/2014)
Nathan Lawson, G - Lawson is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports. (3/19/2014)
Bobby Ryan, RW - Ryan will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a sports hernia Thursday. (3/27/2014)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Mattias Ohlund, D - Ohlund (knee) was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Times reports. (10/2/2013)
Brian Lee, D - Lee (knee) is still only doing off-ice workouts. (11/9/2013)
Slater Koekkoek, D - Koekkoek has undergone season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, but will be ready for training camp in September, reports the Tampa Tribune. "In listening to the doctors, there's no reason Slater can't go on to have a good, long, healthy career," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said of the big defender who has now undergone three shoulder surgeries. (3/21/2014)
Detroit Red Wings
Alexey Marchenko, D - Marchenko is expected to miss the rest of the season with a severe high-ankle sprain, MLive.com's Peter J. Wallner reports. (2/26/2014)
Justin Abdelkader, LW - Abdelkader (leg) hopes to be available Sunday against the Lightning, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (3/29/2014)
Jonathan Ericsson, D - Ericsson (finger) has been ruled out for four-to-six weeks. (3/19/2014)
Stephen Weiss, C - Weiss will receive a second opinion on his sports hernia and is not considered close to returning, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (3/17/2014)
Pavel Datsyuk, C - Datsyuk (knee) skated during the Red Wings' optional practice Wednesday, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports. (3/26/2014)
Henrik Zetterberg, LW - Zetterberg (back) still plans on returning this season, but the Red Wings will need to make the playoffs for that to happen,Marc Antoine Godin of La Presse reports. (3/26/2014)
Dan Cleary, RW - Cleary (knee) is still not skating and has no timetable for return, Ansar Khan of MLive reports. (3/13/2014)
Patrick Kane, RW - Kane (lower body) will be back with the Blackhawks for the playoffs, according to GM Scott Bowman. (3/21/2014)
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Khabibulin had successful surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will miss four-to-five months, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports. (1/7/2014)
Michal Rozsival, D - Rozsival (lower body) will not travel on the team's upcoming three game road trip, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports. (3/26/2014)
Bryan Bickell, LW - Bickell (upper body) will not play in Friday's game against the Ottawa Senators, ESPN Chicago reports. (3/28/2014)
Kris Letang, D - Letang (stroke) continues to practice but has no timetable for a return. "I was so concerned that I wouldn't play again this year," Letang told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "But when I had the green light, I felt fine. The first few days (of practice) were tough. But I'm good now." (3/25/2014)
Chris Conner, RW - Conner (wrist) suffered a broken foot during Sunday's practice and will be out for four-to-six weeks. (3/10/2014)
Tomas Vokoun, G - Coach Dan Bylsma said that while Vokoun (pelvis) could play in one of the Penguins' final 12 regular-season games, he's preparing to have Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff as his postseason goalies, Chad Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. (3/24/2014)
Pascal Dupuis, RW - The Penguins confirmed Tuesday that Dupuis (knee) will miss the next six-to-eight months, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (2/25/2014)
Marcel Goc, C - Goc will miss three weeks with a foot injury. (3/28/2014)
Paul Martin, D - Martin (hand) will receive an X-ray Sunday to determine how well he's progressed in his recovery, the Associated Press reports. (3/26/2014)
Evgeni Malkin, C - Malkin will miss the next two-to-three weeks with a foot injury, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. (3/25/2014)
Joe Vitale, C - Vitale will be sidelined this weekend with an upper-body injury. (3/21/2014)
Zach Sill, RW - Sill sustained an undisclosed injury with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the weekend, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewreports. (1/27/2014)
Brooks Laich, C - Laich (groin) has reported improvement in his recovery from the procedure he underwent last Monday, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (3/27/2014)
Mikhail Grabovski, C - Grabovski (ankle) will not be in the lineup for Saturday afternoon's matinee against Boston, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (3/28/2014)
Jack Hillen, D - Hillen (upper body) was on the ice for Friday's practice, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (3/28/2014)
Tomas Kundratek, D - Kundratek has suffered a torn ACL, which will end his season, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (11/12/2013)
Aaron Volpatti, LW - Volpatti (left shoulder) has not been cleared for practice, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports. (2/20/2014)
Seth Jones, D - Jones (head) will not play in Friday's game against the Stars, the Tennessean's Joshua Cooper reports. (3/28/2014)
Paul Gaustad, C - Gaustad will not play in Friday's game against the Stars, The Tennessean's Joshua Cooper reports. (3/28/2014)
Patrick Eaves, RW - Eaves (upper body) will not play in Friday's game against the Stars, The Tennessean's Joshua Cooper reports. (3/28/2014)
New York Rangers
John Moore, D - Coach Alain Vigneault said Moore (concussion) could be back in the lineup at some point next week, Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record reports. (3/29/2014)
Chris Kreider, LW - Kreider (hand) underwent surgery on Friday and will be out indefinitely. (3/28/2014)
Daniel Carcillo, LW - There's a 75-percent chance Carcillo (flu) will not only dress for team's tilt in Edmonton, but that he'll play on the team's first line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, reports Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record. (3/29/2014)
Jesse Joensuu, RW - Joensuu is looking at a minimum four-week recovery from a high-ankle sprain. (3/18/2014)
Ryan Jones, LW - Jones has been ruled out for the season with a Grade 2 tear in his PCL. (3/29/2014)
Tyler Pitlick, C - Pitlick (leg) is expected to play Sunday versus the Rangers, according to the Oilers web site. (3/29/2014)
Viktor Fasth, G - Fasth (neck) participated in an optional practice Saturday, according to the Oilers web site. (3/29/2014)
Nail Yakupov, RW - Yakupov (ankle) participated in an optional practice Saturday, according to the Oilers web site. (3/29/2014)
Claude Giroux C/W PHI – With one goal and five assists in the last week, few have put up the numbers he has. His leadership of the Flyers is the key reason why they have been able to come back from the dire 4-11 start they had to begin the year. His numbers during the month of March have been exceptional – six goals and 15 assists for 21 points in just 13 games. That's very Crosby-esque.
Gustav Nyquist C/W DET – From the ashes of the serious injuries that should have buried their season, Detroit has been reborn like a Phoenix with the exceptional play of Gustav Nyquist. In his last eight games, Nyquist has 10 goals and two assists for 12 points, and a Red Wing standard +7. This ability to pull quality players from their ranks in times of need shows why Detroit really is the best managed franchise in all the major sports in North America.
Scott Hartnell LW PHI – Alongside Giroux, Hartnell has been red-hot of late – and a valuable commodity for savvy GMs. He's not just your one-trick pony – Hartnell has impacted every stat category in the last week, registering two goals, three assists, a +1, 10 penalty minutes, two power play points, and 10 shots on net. That type of grit is what wins championships.
Martin St. Louis RW NYR – In what seems like the worst trade in recent memory, New York's addition of St. Louis – at great cost, might I add – has only accounted for three assists. The reigning Art Ross trophy winner has three points in 13 games; I believe that qualifies as cold.
Alex Ovechkin RW WAS – Along the same lines as St. Louis, Ovechkin's prolific goal scoring production has fallen off the rails of late. In his last 11 games, the "Great Eight" has only four goals, which is far off his pace of 0.8 goals per game. It seems that players holding personal trophies have had bad stretches of late.
Mike Green D WAS – It's hard to believe that he used to be a point-per-game defenseman, similar to Erik Karlsson or P.K. Subban. Since his concussion plagued 2011-2012, he's never been the same player. Of late, that comparison has become even more strained – with only two points in his last 11 games, "Game Over Green" may be a criticism of his poor defensive game rather than a complement to his excellent offensive game.
Cam Talbot G NYR – Talbot has played exceptional for the Rangers this year when called upon. His 11-6 record, and fantastic 1.76 GAA / .937 SV% are top-drawer across the league. With an ownership level of 19%, he's still readily available, but GMs typically add and drop him in rapid succession to get the occasional game out of him. Since he's playing Edmonton today, I would suggest the add if you're in need of a decent start.