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Florida
Panthers
35-31-16
Toronto
Maple Leafs
40-31-11

36 SOG
36 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
FLA
TOR
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Panthers-Maple Leafs Preview

Tuesday, 12.19.2006 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

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Panthers-Maple Leafs Preview
Florida Panthers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have done a good job bouncing back from their worst run of the season. Now they are on the verge of matching their best.

The Maple Leafs look for their season high-tying fourth straight victory when they meet the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre in the third meeting between the teams this season.

Toronto (16-13-5) was outscored 29-9 during a season-high seven-game losing streak, but has since won three in a row. The Maple Leafs matched their entire scoring output from that two-week slide Saturday with a 9-2 win over the New York Rangers.

Kyle Wellwood scored twice to fuel a five-goal first period for the Leafs, who have converted seven of 17 power-play opportunities (41.2 percent) during their winning streak.

"Everything is going in and everybody's contributing. It's a lot of fun," said Wellwood, who finished with three goals and two assists to move into a tie with Darcy Tucker for the team lead with 31 points.

It was the first career multigoal game for Wellwood, who extended his point streak to four games and set a career high in points. He has two goals and three assists over his last four games against Florida (11-18-6).

Alexei Ponikarovsky also set a career high in points with two goals and three assists while Jeff O'Neill and Tucker each added a goal and an assist. Tucker is day-to-day after leaving in the second period with a left hand injury.

Along with its resurgent offense, Toronto is tightening up its defense. The Leafs tied a team record by giving up only 13 shots Saturday, last done on March 9, 1975, at Washington.

They also allowed fewer than three goals for the first time in three weeks as Andrew Raycroft needed to make just 11 saves. The Toronto goaltender is 3-4 with two ties and a 2.07 goals-against average in nine career starts versus the Panthers.

The Leafs acquired Raycroft from Boston in the offseason after deciding against keeping Ed Belfour at the end of 2005-06. Belfour, who went 93-61-4 with 11 ties and a 2.51 GAA in three seasons for Toronto, signed a one-year deal with the Panthers in July and has gone 5-8-2 with a 2.83 GAA.

He made 18 saves Saturday to help Florida snap a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the Bruins. It was the first win in six starts for Belfour, who is 26-14 with seven ties and a 2.36 GAA in 48 career games against his former team.

This game could mark his first start back in Toronto since he played for the Leafs. Belfour did start against them on Nov. 2, making 23 saves in a 4-2 home win.

Florida hopes to continue getting its power play on track. The Panthers were 3-for-7 with the man advantage in Saturday's win after failing to score a power-play goal in three consecutive games.

"We should feel good with what we did (Saturday), but realize we've got a big hill to climb," said Panthers left wing Gary Roberts, who had a goal and an assist.

Jozef Stumpel had two goals and two assists, but has just one assist in his last five games against the Maple Leafs. Panthers leading scorer Olli Jokinen added a goal and two assists to boost his point total to 34.

Florida is seeking back-to-back road wins for the first time all season, but has lost its last five visits to Toronto. The Leafs have outscored the Panthers 20-9 and have gone 8-for-25 on the power play during that streak.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Jan 18 '07TOR 3 at FLA 2J. Pohl
Dec 19 '06FLA 7 at TOR 3G. Roberts
Nov 02 '06TOR 2 at FLA 4J. Kwiatkowski
Oct 09 '06FLA 1 at TOR 2 - SOM. Sundin
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GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
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