While it might make for an intriguing storyline given all the history between the two clubs over the past two seasons, the Maple Leafs can't be officially eliminated from playoff contention by the Boston Bruins tonight.
Even a regulation loss would leave the Leafs with a possibility of getting to 88 points with four games remaining, theoretically enough to catch the Buffalo Sabres, who currently sit seventh with 87 points and don't play. The Rangers are eighth with 87 points, and they tangle with the unpredictable Islanders on the road this evening.
That said, the result of tonight's Leafs-Bruins clash in Beantown could help determine the value of the draft picks hanging in the balance because of two major trades between the two teams over the past two seasons.
For the Leafs, the good news is the 2011 No. 1 pick overall is no longer in play.
Right now, the Leafs sit 22nd overall and can't finish lower than 25th, which means even with the draft lottery the Bruins can no longer dream of getting the top pick with the second of two first round selections gained through the 2009 Phil Kessel deal.
Small victories for Leaf Nation.
If the Leafs fall no further, the highest the lottery could move the Bruins could move up to would be fifth overall - no team can move up more than four places - while the Leafs could also still bump a few notches upwards in the standings.
A win tonight over the Bruins, then, could contribute to that lost first round pick being less valuable. And keep the Leafs' remote playoff dreams alive.
The Leafs, meanwhile, own Boston's first round pick from last month's Tomas Kaberle deal. Today, the Bruins sit seventh overall, but the actual value of that pick will be determined through how Boston fares in the post-season combined with their regular season finish. The Bruins will win their division but right now have the fewest points of any division leader, and that status could determine where the first rounder owned by the Leafs lands.
The best scenario the Leafs could hope for (and an unlikely one) would be if four non-division winners get to the conference finals. Those teams would get picks Nos. 27 through 30. Next would come the division winners in reverse order of points, so in theory the Boston pick owned by the Leafs could be as high as No. 21 if the B's finish lowest among the division winners.
If the Bruins get to the Stanley Cup final and lose, the pick would be the 29th of the first round. If they win, it would be the 30th. But in either of those scenarios, the Leafs would get Boston's second round pick in 2012.
The Leafs would also get Boston's second round pick in '12 regardless of their playoff finish if Kaberle resigns with the Bruins. Right now, there have been no serious contract talks between the veteran defenceman and Boston GM Peter Chiarelli, but the intent seems to be to get a deal done.
"I expect there to be good negotiations once the season is over," Chiarelli told ESPNBoston.com.
Kaberle, an unrestricted free agent in July, has played 18 games for Boston, registering one goal and six assists with a plus-six rating. So far, he hasn't done much to help the Boston power play, with the B's 6-49 (12.2 per cent) at extra strength since acquiring Kaberle. That said, over the last five games the Boston power play has been better, scoring five times on 15 chances.
"He's changed the balance of our defence," said Chiarelli.
This is the second meeting of the two clubs since the Kaberle trade. The Leafs beat the Bruins 5-2 in Toronto on March 19th, a game in which Kaberle went pointless and was minus-1 in 20:08 of playing time.
Centre Joe Colborne, the prospect the Leafs received in the deal along with the draft picks, has been back in the AHL Marlies lineup for five games since suffering a concussion in mid-March. He had a goal and an assist in a loss to Syracuse on Wednesday.