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Gameday Preview: Leafs at Canucks

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (38-26-5-2) at Vancouver Canucks (40-18-12-1).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Vancouver Canucks, trying to maintain their lead in the Northwest Division, could have starting goalie Dan Cloutier back in the lineup when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sidelined since spraining his right knee in an 8-0 victory over Atlanta on Feb. 25, Cloutier took part in a complete practice Thursday for the first time since the injury. If Cloutier is unable to play, Peter Skudra would make his ninth straight start.

Cloutier went 7-0-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average in February before getting hurt. He is unbeaten in 10 starts since losing to Detroit on Jan. 24.

While Vancouver is trying to catch Dallas for the best record in the Western Conference, it is also looking to put more distance between itself and surging Colorado in the Northwest. The Canucks, who have earned at least a point in 17 of 19 games since the All-Star break, are four points ahead of the Avalanche.

In a physical game with a playoff atmosphere, the Canucks skated to a 4-4 tie with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

"It was a playoff style game," said Canucks coach Marc Crawford, who received two unsportsmanlike penalties and watched the final two periods from his office after being ejected for arguing.

Brad May, acquired Tuesday from Phoenix, made an immediate impact in his first game with the Canucks. May's big hit on Keith Tkachuk midway through the first period caused the Blues' star to miss the rest of the game with a wrist injury.

"You want to hit, you want to be physical, you want to knock guys down," May said. "You don't want to hurt anybody, but that's part of the game." Vancouver captain Markus Naslund had one assist Thursday, giving him a league-leading 92 points.

The line of Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi, arguably the league's best, has nine goals and 13 assists in the last four games.

Toronto has just one win in six games (1-3-1-1) and has fallen four points behind Philadelphia in the race for fourth place and home ice in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Leafs have picked up three of a possible four points on the first two stops of a three-game road trip following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

Already playing without leading scorer Alexander Mogilny, newly acquired Doug Gilmour sustained a knee injury in the second period and did not return.

Mogilny, who got permission to leave the team to attend to a personal matter, and Gilmour are both expected to miss Saturday's game.

Maple Leafs - 83 points, 2nd place, 15 PB, Northeast Division
Canucks - 93 points, 1st place, Northwest Division.

Maple Leafs - Mats Sundin, 31 goals; Mogilny, 44 assists and 72 points; Wade Belak, 172 PIM.
Canucks - Naslund, 42 goals, 50 assists and 92 points; Darren Langdon, 157 PIM.SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 13):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 16.8 percent (53 for 316), 14th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.9 percent (324 for 373), 3rd.
Canucks - Power play: 20.0 percent (72 for 360), 4th. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (294 for 348), 10th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (31-19-4, 6 SO, 2.31 GAA); Trevor Kidd (6-8-1, 0, 3.08).
Canucks - Skudra (9-5-6, 1, 2.72); Alex Auld (0-1-0, 0, 1.43).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0-1.

LAST MEETING: March 8; Tie, 3-3, OT. At Toronto, Bertuzzi had two goals and an assist as Vancouver overcame two goals by Owen Nolan in his first game with the Maple Leafs.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 17-14-2-2 on the road; Canucks - 19-10-6-0 at home.
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