Habs back home to face improving Leafs
Saturday, 10.31.2009 / 7:00 PM
MAPLE LEAFS (1-7-3) at CANADIENS (6-7-0)
Last 10: Toronto 1-7-2; Montreal 4-6-0
Season series: This is the second of six meetings between the two Original Six rivals. The Leafs and the Habs faced each other in their season opener on Oct. 1 in Toronto with the Canadiens earning a 4-3 overtime win.
Big Story: The Maple Leafs have collected at least a point in each of their last three games after seven straight regulation losses. They picked up their first win of the season on Monday, 6-3 over the Ducks, followed by two straight overtime losses, 4-3 to Dallas on Wednesday and 3-2 to Buffalo on Friday.
Maple Leafs: Things have been looking up for the Maple Leafs this week. In Friday's defeat, Toronto came back twice to tie the Sabres. Ian White scored late in the first period with a nice wrister that sent his team back to the locker room in a 1-1 tie and Mikhail Grabovski scored a shorthanded goal with 38 seconds remaining in the third to force overtime. Still on the power play, the Sabres prevailed in the extra frame.
"We played a solid game but sometimes it's not enough," said Tomas Kaberle, who had two assists in Friday's loss. "We did a good job going to the net in the third. The first few games in the season we were just standing around and waiting for good plays and empty nets that weren't there."
Canadiens: After four straight wins Montreal has suffered two straight losses, 6-1 to the Penguins on Wednesday and 3-2 to the Blackhawks on Friday. Carey Price had his first start between the pipes since Oct. 17. The netminder was solid against Chicago despite the defeat, making 33 saves. Down by two, the Canadiens rallied late in the second period on goals by Mike Cammalleri and Travis Moen to tie the game, but fell on Patrick Sharp’s slapper late in the third. It marked the Canadiens' fifth straight road loss since opening the season with two wins.
"We started doing some things right and it paid off for a short period of time, but not the whole game," Cammalleri said. "With as many good saves as (Price) had, we should have won."
Who's Hot: Friday night's goal gave Cammalleri the Habs' lead in points with 13, including five goals and two assists in his last five games. Tomas Plekanec has been as equally as hot with 12 points, but broke his four-game point streak in the Hawks' loss. Kaberle leads his team with 13 points and has a four-game points streak.
Injury Report: Montreal's Matt D'Agostini took a hit hard to his head Friday night against the Blackhawks and did not return. The right wing is thought to have a concussion. Defensemen Andrei Markov, who severed his ankle tendons in the Oct. 1 Leafs game, and Ryan O'Byrne (knee) will still be out for some time.
Phil Kessel, who has yet to suit up for Toronto, was officially taken off the IR and is listed as day-to-day. He is slated to return Nov. 3 against the Lightning, but could be in the lineup against the Canadiens.
Stat Pack: The Oct. 1 game in Toronto showed fans to expect the unexpected, as the two teams reversed the roles they had been stamped with in the preseason. The Leafs, who hold a significant size advantage, were out-hit 37-22, while the small, speedy, offense-oriented Canadiens were out-shot by the Maple Leafs 46-27.
Puck Drop: While the Canadiens currently have a seven-point lead on the Leafs in the standings, neither team has been doing enough lately to win. Someone will have to deliver on Saturday and whatever the result, as Leafs-Habs games always are, it will be a heated Canadian matchup.
-- Magalie Lafrenière, NHL.com