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Habs In T.O. For Original Six Matchup

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (15-13-4-1) at Toronto Maple Leafs (18-6-6-3).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Sheldon Souray and the Montreal Canadiens will try to slow down the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs as the Northeast Division rivals meet at the Air Canada Centre.

Souray leads all NHL defencemen with 11 goals, and has eight points in his last four games. The 27-year-old blueliner recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist to lift Montreal to a 5-4 victory over visiting Nashville on Thursday.

The four points was a career high for Souray, who became the first Canadien defenceman to register a hat trick since Vladimir Malakhov accomplished the feat in a 6-3 Montreal win at Carolina on Feb. 1, 1998.

"I call him our MVP," said Montreal's Mike Ribeiro of Souray. "He's been huge for us this year. He's a leader, and guys look up to him."

The Canadiens are unbeaten in nine of their last 11 games (6-2-3), and are two games above .500 for the first time since Oct. 23.

Montreal, however, might be concerned with the health of starting goalie Jose Theodore, who left Thursday's game in the first period because of a badly bruised collarbone. Theodore started despite being struck by Pierre Dagenais' shot during the pregame warmup.

His status for Saturday's game is unknown.

"Despite everything, I tried to start the game," Theodore said. "It probably wasn't a good decision on my part, but in the heat of the moment you want to play."

The division-leading Maple Leafs extended their franchise-record points streak to 13 despite more bad injury news in Friday's 2-2 tie at Washington.

Right wing Darcy Tucker was hit in the foot by a puck in the third period and is listed as day-to-day. The Maple Leafs also learned that Tomas Kaberle's recent shoulder injury will keep the defenceman out eight to 10 days.

"It's puzzling how this can continue to happen," said coach Pat Quinn, whose team has overcome recent injuries to Alexander Mogilny, Owen Nolan, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Nik Antropov.

"It's discouraging."

Nieuwendyk did play Friday despite an ankle injury. He had an assist.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 35 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Northeast Division. Maple Leafs - 45 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Souray and Richard Zednik, 11 goals; Ribeiro, 18 assists and 23 points; Darren Langdon, 62 PIM. Maple Leafs - Mats Sundin, 13 goals, 20 assists and 32 points; Owen Nolan, 71 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 18): Canadiens - Power play: 16.4 percent (21 for 128), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (101 for 123), 26th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 16.8 percent (27 for 161), 9th. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (141 for 165), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (12-11-3, 4 SO, 2.26 GAA); Mathieu Garon (3-3-1, 0, 2.38). Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (15-9-3, 4, 2.21); Trevor Kidd (1-0-1, 0, 2.00).


LAST MEETING: Oct. 18; Maple Leafs, 1-0. At Montreal, Ric Jackman, who lost a tooth in the second period after being struck in the mouth by the stick of Montreal left wing Jason Ward, scored on the power play for the Maple Leafs. The Canadiens were outshot 25-15.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 7-6-1-1 on the road; Maple Leafs - 8-2-1-2 at home.

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