The Toronto Maple Leafs could clinch a playoff spot Tuesday night with a victory over the Washington Capitals and a regulation loss by the Winnipeg Jets against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It would be Toronto’s first berth since 2003-04.
The Maple Leafs are 7-1-2 in their past 10 games.
“I think they’re just playing better, some of their guys,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “Maybe their goaltending. I know the penalty killing is good right now. They’ve got some confidence.”
The Maple Leafs are better than they were for previous meetings Jan. 31 and Feb. 5.
“They have upgraded a lot, they’ve improved, they’re a different team than when we played them,” Oates said. “Obviously playing with a lot of confidence, so we have to be ready. And so are we.”
The Caps are going for their eight straight victory and are 21-10-1 since the last time they played the Maple Leafs. They’re up four points in the Southeast Division on the Jets, who host the Lightning at 8 p.m. Eastern.
That means a certain amount of scoreboard-watching, but Caps players know they can’t overlook the Jets,
“It’s going to be a tough game,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Obviously, they’ve been playing good lately. It’s going to be a tough battle out there. We know their whole team is playing solid and they’re in a playoff spot, as well.”