Forward Troy Bodie knows full well how it feels to be in a slump like the one the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently mired in.
He went through a similar funk last season with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.
“You’ve just got to stick with it, come to the rink every day, try and get better,” said Bodie. “You’re going to come out of it.”
The Maple Leafs’ playoff chances have faded as a result of the eight-game losing streak. Toronto (36-32-8) will try to end the skid Tuesday against the Calgary Flames (31-37-7) at Air Canada Centre.
Bodie, who has 10 points in 41 games for Toronto this season, went through a slump of six regulation losses and then a seven-game winless skid last season with the Admirals.
“You don’t change a whole lot,” he said of what it takes to get back in the win column. “We’re not re-inventing anything on the team. We’re not stripping the team down. We’ve got the same group of guys that have won numerous games. Just stick with it.”
Toronto hasn’t won at home since March 8 and dropped nine of 10 games overall. Leafs forward Nazem Kadri has never experienced a drought like this before.
“It’s a little unheard of,” he said. “It’s magnified a little more playing here, but we’ve got to do everything we know how to do to get out of it.”
The Maple Leafs dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Red Wings on Saturday night in a matchup of teams on the post-season bubble.
In an effort to lighten the mood Monday, the Leafs began practice playing with orange street hockey balls. Head coach Randy Carlyle then put his players through a 90-minute session.
He said he knew something was amiss when he arrived to the team’s practice facility and noticed the music was not on in the locker-room.
“When you come in and you don’t have any music playing in the room, that’s a sure tell-tale sign,” he said. “Obviously what happened on Saturday, nobody was feeling good about themselves when they came here.”
In a span of 18 days, the Leafs have gone from the third seed in the Atlantic Division to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, two points out of a playoff spot.
Entering Monday’s games, Detroit and Columbus held the wild-card spots while Washington was ninth in the East, one point ahead of Toronto. Making things more difficult for Toronto is that Detroit, Columbus and Washington all have at least one game in hand on the Leafs.
Toronto looked like a good bet for the post-season earlier this month after impressive road wins at Los Angeles and Anaheim. Kadri recently watched game film from those victories to see if he might notice something that could help end the skid.
“That’s what we have to kind of envision,” Kadri said. “What we were doing back then.”
Following Saturday’s loss, forward Joffrey Lupul suggested the Leafs would have to win their remaining six games — and get help — in order to make their second straight post-season appearance.
Carlyle, when asked if his team needed to run the table in order to have a chance, responded, “I look at it as we have to win tomorrow night.”
Added defenceman Cody Franson: “We can still to a certain degree control our fate and that’s the way we’re approaching it.”
Most players used Sunday’s off-day as a chance to get their mind off hockey altogether. Bodie and his wife went out for dinner and a movie with goaltender Jonathan Bernier and his fiancee.
“When you’re at home, you’ve got to try and separate the two — your personal life and your work atmosphere,” said Franson, who has his grandparents in town. “It’s the only way to stay sane. This is a stressful and high-pressure situation for us. You try and separate it when you go home.”
Phil Kessel, who took a pass from teammate James van Riemsdyk off his right foot in Saturday’s loss, was not at practice Monday. Carlyle said Kessel was given a maintenance day and fully expects the team’s leading scorer in the lineup against the Flames.
Van Riemsdyk and defenceman Carl Gunnarsson were also given maintenance days.
Toronto hosts Boston on Thursday and then wraps up a four-game homestand on Saturday against Winnipeg. The Leafs will finish the regular season with three games in five nights on the road.