The Leafs are looking to post their third straight win as they roll into Pittsburgh for this Sunday afternoon tilt.  On the surface, this may seem like a run-of-the-mill Sunday game as there is no obvious importance in a matchup between the defending Stanley cup champs and our basement-dwelling team.  However, there are a multitude of underlying storylines that should make this a very interesting game.

    First of all, this will be the first time Alexei Ponikarovsky suits up against his longtime club, the Maple Leafs.  Poni served Toronto well and the organization got spectacular value for the ’98 4th round pick over his years of service.  That being said, it’ll definitely be a bit strange seeing Poni in a Pittsburgh uniform, a sentiment he echoed himself, “It’s going to be, for me, a little bit more emotional playing against former teammates (and seeing) the Leaf uniform on the other side.”

    Another storyline for this game will be the jockeying for position that both clubs are undergoing in the final games of this campaign.  The Penguins enter the game in a tie with the Devils for first in the Atlantic Division (although New Jersey has a game in hand).  Pittsburgh just locked up a playoff position, and will be looking to add a division title to another impressive regular season. 

    Conversely, the Leafs 8-2-0 record over their last 10 games has them in a position to move out of 15th in the Eastern Conference.  For all of us fans eagerly tracking our draft position, we still currently sit 2nd (ahead of only Edmonton).  However, a win today would put us just 2 points behind the 6th draft position (currently occupied by the Islanders, who do have a game behind).  With Columbus sitting in the 7th position (just one point ahead of the Islanders), the Leafs have the opportunity to catapult out of the “Taylor Hall range” of the upcoming draft.  Regardless, the Leafs look to continue their aggressive play of late and convince their critics that this is anything but an illusion.