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Gameday Preview: Leafs vs. Canucks

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Vancouver Canucks (39-18-10-1) at Toronto Maple Leafs (37-26-4-1).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Owen Nolan's first game as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs comes at the perfect time.

Toronto hopes Nolan can help it end a season high-tying three-game losing streak when the big forward makes his Leafs debut against the first-place Vancouver Canucks at Air Canada Centre.

With the trade deadline just four days away, the Maple Leafs made a bold move Wednesday when they acquired Nolan from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for center Alyn McCauley, prospect Brad Boyes and a first-round draft pick.

Nolan, the San Jose captain, had 22 goals and 42 points in 61 games for the Sharks this season.

"He's a proven performer, and he's got an edge to him, all those sorts of things that often show up well at playoff time," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said.

Nolan will also help fill a roster spot vacated by forwards Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi and Tom Fitzgerald and defenseman Jyrki Lumme. Tucker and Domi are serving suspensions for their roles in a fight-filled game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, and Fitzgerald and Lumme are out with injuries.

The Leafs matched their longest skid of the season Thursday with a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

The three-game skid has diminished Toronto's chances of finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference and getting home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

"We haven't been doing the things you have to do to win," Quinn said.

Captain Mats Sundin had an assist in Thursday's loss, giving him 999 career points. Sundin is bidding to become the 66th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-point mark.

The first-place Canucks have cooled off following a franchise-record 14-game unbeaten streak, going 1-2-1-1 in their last five. Vancouver is trying to hold off red-hot Colorado in the Northwest Division while battling Dallas and Ottawa for the league's best record.

Despite a goal and an assist apiece from linemates Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, the Canucks lost 5-4 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

"We can't keep letting teams hang around," Bertuzzi said. "We have to have that killer instinct and put 'em down when we've got 'em. We gave them life and they took advantage of it." Naslund leads the NHL with 42 goals and 87 points.

Vancouver's slump has coincided with a knee injury to starting goalie Dan Cloutier. Peter Skudra allowed four goals on 23 shots Thursday before he was replaced by Alex Auld midway through the second period.

Canucks - 89 points, 1st place, Northwest Division.
Maple Leafs - 79 points, 2nd place, 11 PB, Northeast Division.

Canucks - Naslund, 42 goals, 45 assists and 87 points; Darren Langdon, 153 PIM.
Maple Leafs - Sundin, 30 goals; Alexander Mogilny, 44 assists and 71 points; Domi, 155 PIM.

Canucks - Power play: 19.7 percent (68 for 345), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (286 for 336), 6th.
Maple Leafs - Power play: 16.9 percent (52 for 307), 15th. Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (306 for 353), 3rd.

Canucks - Skudra (8-5-4, 1 SO, 2.63 GAA); Auld (0-1-0, 1.43).
Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (30-19-3, 6, 2.31); Trevor Kidd (6-7-1, 3.03).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 31; Maple Leafs, 5-3. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Belfour made 22 saves and stopped three breakaways as Toronto won despite playing without Sundin, Mogilny and Mikael Renberg.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 21-8-5-1 on the road; Maple Leafs - 21-12-2-0 at home.
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