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At the Rink blog

Leafs looking to improve against League's elite

Monday, 12.05.2011 / 12:42 PM

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Leafs looking to improve against League's elite
NEW YORK -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are having a pretty good season. It could be an even better one if not for the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points. But if not for four losses to the Boston Bruins, things would be looking even better in Toronto. Just a split in those games would have the Leafs in second place in the East and on the doorstep of the top spot in the League.

Finding ways to beat the NHL's top teams has been a problem for the Leafs -- of their 10 regulation losses this season, nine have come against teams with winning records. It won't get any easier Monday night when they have to face the New York Rangers, who have won 12 of 14 and boast the best winning percentage in the League.

If the beatings by the Bruins and losses to the League's top teams have had any effect on the Leafs' confidence, a win against the Rangers would give it a boost.

"It would be huge," center Tyler Bozak said. "We just have to get back to doing what we were doing on our road trip (3-1-0). It's obviously going to be a tough game in their building. They play well here and are on a little bit of a streak, so we're going to have to come and give it our all tonight to have a chance."

The Rangers are 7-1-1 at Madison Square Garden, but that regulation loss came to the Leafs on Oct. 27. The Rangers have caught fire since then, but that early-season win has the Leafs confident they can do it again.

"We beat them here already, so it's not like we feel we can't beat the Rangers," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "Right now, it's just two points for us for a team it looks like we'll be battling all year. As far as confidence goes, we're confident. It's not like we're coming in here thinking we can't beat these guys. We know we can."

The Leafs will attempt to use the same recipe they did in October -- get traffic in front of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and use their own Swedish goaltender, Jonas Gustavsson, who made 28 saves in the 4-2 victory.

"It's always fun to compete against the best, whether it's a goalie or a defenseman or forward," Gustavsson said of facing Lundqvist. "In the end, it's just the same thing. You don't focus on what he's doing. You try to stop as many shots as you can.

"I see every game as a new game. I don't like to look in the past. We know it's going to be a really tough challenge tonight. They have a good team and are playing well. But I'm sure we can match them. When we're playing good, we're a really tough team to beat. Hopefully we're going to show that tonight."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic