The long-awaited return of rugged forward David Bolland couldn’t come at a more crucial time for an increasingly desperate Maple Leafs team.

And now the other big question: When will goaltender Jonathan Bernier join him in the lineup to help salvage a season rapidly slipping away?

A week and four consecutive losses after chasing down home-ice advantage for the opening round of the playoffs seemed like a reasonable goal, suddenly getting any spot is turning into a massive challenge.

And if the Leafs are going to have a reasonable shot at returning to the post-season for a second consecutive spring, it’s likely going to take significant contributions from both players.

First to Bolland, who had a successful get-his-feet wet game on Saturday after missing 56 contests with a severed tendon near his left ankle. It will take a few more nights for him to get up to his most effective, however, and the way things are going, the Leafs best hope that when the moment arrives, it isn’t too late.

As for Bernier, coach Randy Carlyle said after Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Habs that the team’s No. 1 goaltender will not be making the trip to New Jersey for a Sunday night date with the Devils.

So what now? Does James Reimer get another start? As has been his way lately, he was “just okay” on Saturday, letting in a second goal to the Habs’ Rene Bourque that he should have had and a bad-angle game-winner to Tomas Plekanec that cannot be given up at such a crucial point in the game and season.