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At the Rink blog

Crucial points on the line in Battle of Ontario

Saturday, 02.01.2014 / 1:53 PM

By Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Crucial points on the line in Battle of Ontario

TORONTO – The Battle of Ontario is never lacking for story lines, and the matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Center on Saturday night is no different.

The Maple Leafs lead the Senators in the Atlantic Division by six points going into the game, and for them it's a chance to put a little distance between themselves and their cross-province rival, who hold two games in hand.

"I don't think there needs [to be] any extra motivation for this game," Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri said. "They're kind of right on our tails in the standings. We want to try to keep them in our rear-view as much as possible."

Kadri has been a key player for the Maple Leafs lately and has scored 12 points in the past 8 games. Toronto is 8-1-1 in the past 10 games.

The Maple Leafs held an optional skate but have a pair of forwards dealing with injuries. Carter Ashton has a swollen hand and Peter Holland is dealing with "lace bite," an inflammation of the foot tendons caused by tight skates.

"It's a new one for me," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "To me it's crazy. It's something that a guy wears a pair of new skates in the morning, plays the game that night, and the next morning's got lace bite. Go figure. I'm at a loss to explain it.

"All I know is the kid's got a foot that's swollen up that it's not weight-bearing now. He's on crutches and it's one of those situations where we deal with it. So I'm dealing with it."

Carlyle said Fraser McLaren (shoulder) was an option to come off injured reserve and play if needed.

James Reimer was the only goalie that participated in the morning skate meaning Jonathan Bernier will start against Ottawa.

The Senators have won two in a row and are looking to close the gap on the Maple Leafs.

"It's going to be no problem getting ready or getting pumped up before this game," Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "It's always a great crowd, a full house and the games are usually pretty intense. Both teams play fun hockey so it should be a good one."

Senators forward Clarke MacArthur, who spent the previous three seasons with the Maple Leafs, comes into the game with 14 points in the past 13 games.

"It's always fun when the pucks are going in," MacArthur said. "I'm getting the opportunity here and it's been great so far."

MacArthur is tied with Bobby Ryan for second on the Senators in points with 42. Only Karlsson is ahead of them with 51 points.

Senators coach Paul MacLean confirmed Craig Anderson will start in goal. Matt Kassian will replace Stephane Da Costa in the lineup and there won't be other changes from the previous game, a 5-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here are the projected lineups for the Senators and Maple Leafs:

SENATORS

Clarke MacArthurKyle TurrisBobby Ryan

Colin GreeningJason SpezzaMilan Michalek

Cory ConacherMika ZibanejadErik Condra

Matt KassianZack SmithChris Neil

Jared CowenErik Karlsson

Marc MethotEric Gryba

Patrick WierciochCody Ceci

Craig Anderson

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Chris Phillips, Joe Corvo, Stephane Da Costa

Injured: Mark Stone (arm)

MAPLE LEAFS

James van RiemsdykTyler BozakPhil Kessel

Nikolai KuleminNazem KadriJoffrey Lupul

Mason RaymondJay McClementTroy Bodie

Frazer McLarenGreg McKeggColton Orr

Carl GunnarssonDion Phaneuf

Tim GleasonCody Franson

Jake GardinerMorgan Rielly

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Paul Ranger

Injured: Trevor Smith (hand), David Clarkson (elbow), Dave Bolland (cut tendon), Carter Ashton (hand), Peter Holland (foot).

Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions