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Gameday Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: New York Rangers (12-15-4-1) at Toronto Maple Leafs (14-13-2-0).
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The New York Rangers' playoff hopes are already in danger of slipping away due to poor play and a rash of injuries to their best players.

New York hopes a new goalie and the return of two of their key players can help them end a season-high four-game losing streak in a matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mikael Renberg scored the Leafs' lone goal in Philly.
Graig Abel Photography

On the day they learned Mike Richter would miss the rest of the season with a concussion, the Rangers acquired goalie Mike Dunham from the Nashville Predators on Thursday in exchange for forward Rem Murray, minor league defenseman Tomas Kloucek and the rights to defenseman Marek Zidlicky.

Dunham, who has just two wins in 15 appearances with Nashville this season, figures to challenge 19-year-old Dan Blackburn for the starting job. Blackburn has started all 17 games in Richter's absence.

"Mike has been a No. 1 goaltender," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. "I suppose it depends how things shake out with him and Danny. I'm more concerned with winning games than who will be No. 1 or No. 2."

Blackburn has mostly played well since being thrust into the starting role, but struggled in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Besides Richter, New York also played Wednesday without injured forwards Pavel Bure and Matthew Barnaby, captain Mark Messier and defenseman Brian Leetch. Defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre broke his right index finger in the second period and did not return.

Messier and Barnaby returned to practice Thursday and both are expected to return to the lineup Saturday.

"Both Messier and Barnaby looked really good," coach Bryan Trottier said.

"They will probably both be back this weekend in Toronto."

The four-game skid is the Rangers' longest since dropping six in a row (0-5-0-1) from Dec. 31-Jan. 12.

Toronto has played much better of late, despite falling 2-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

"We didn't play with much juice tonight and I don't know why," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "You could tell early in the third period we weren't the team that was going to take over."

Mikael Renberg scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, who have won seven straight at home and eight of 11 overall.

Thursday's defeat snapped a personal six-game win streak for Leafs goalie Ed Belfour, who has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his last 12 appearances.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 12): Rangers - 29 points, 3rd place, 6 PB, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 30 points, 3rd place (tied), 12 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Bure, 14 goals; Tom Poti, 21 assists and 26 points; Eric Lindros, 67 PIM. Maple Leafs - Mats Sundin, 14 goals; Mogilny, 20 assists and 32 points; Tie Domi, 56 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 12): Rangers - Power play: 13.6 percent (20 for 147), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.2 percent (134 for 161), 17th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.1 percent (29 for 144), 6th. Penalty killing: 87.1 percent (135 for 155), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Blackburn (7-9-3, 1 SO, 3.19 GAA); Dunham (2-9-2, 3.15). Maple Leafs - Belfour (13-8-2, 5, 2.07); Trevor Kidd (1-5-0, 4.21).

SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 26; Rangers, 4-3. At Toronto, Bure scored with 57 seconds remaining and Richter made 36 saves. Mogilny had a goal and an assist for the Leafs.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 4-6-3-1 on the road; Maple Leafs - 11-7-1-0 at home.

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