The Maple Leafs have another three-day break between games, but there is no break from the constant reminder of their five-game winless streak and how it has weakened their hold on a playoff berth.
During that skid, the team still collected points in two of the five games and played well enough to win against Boston but played troubled hockey in two encounters with the Winnipeg Jets.
So while media and fans raise concerns, the Leafs believe they will make the playoffs and not repeat last year’s February-March collapse that shredded their playoff hopes and dropped them to 13th in the Eastern Conference.
But the winless skid has eroded the points cushion they built with a tremendous start to this truncated lockout season.
The Leafs remain three points up on the Rangers and Flyers, but those powerhouse teams are expected to overcome their rough and make strong pushes for the playoffs.
Essentially, the Leafs still need 24 points to reach the 55-point plateau that is generally accepted as the threshold for a playoff berth. They have 19 games left to achieve that point.
And with Joffrey Lupul back from injury and looking sensational, the roster received the equivalent of a marquee trade or free agent signing. And Lupul is playing on the so-called third line with Nazem Kadri, which gives the Leafs three bona fide scoring lines and a solid fourth with Jay McClement, Colton Orr and Leo Komarov or Frazer McLaren.