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IBM Gameday preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: San Jose Sharks (13-14-2-3) at Toronto Maple Leafs (16-14-3-0).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

It certainly doesn't look like Ed Belfour has called Air Canada Centre home for less than half a season.

Belfour and the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to match a franchise-record nine-game home win streak when they face the San Jose Sharks.

After struggling in his first few home games in his first season with the Maple Leafs, Belfour has given the home fans plenty to cheer about of late.

Belfour has been in net for each game during the win streak that began with consecutive shutouts over Boston and Philadelphia on Nov. 19 and 23. In those eight wins, he has three shutouts and just 13 goals allowed.

The last time the Leafs won nine in a row at home was Nov. 11-Dec. 26, 1953.

Belfour's strong play, however, isn't just limited to Toronto. He stopped 29 of 30 shots and came within 96 seconds of his sixth shutout, as the Leafs completed a three-game trip Thursday with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Belfour was the difference," Lightning goalie Kevin Hodson said. "He's an elite goalie in the world, so you expect that from him."

Robert Reichel and Alexander Mogilny scored for Toronto, 12-5-1-0 since opening the season 4-9-2-0.

The Sharks will try to completely erase the memory of their last game, a 9-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

Evgeni Nabokov surrendered four goals on nine shots before he was replaced by Miikka Kiprusoff in the second period. Kiprusoff didn't fare much better, yielding five goals on 14 shots.

"It was frustrating," said right wing Teemu Selanne, who had a goal and two assists. "I thought it would be a good test for us. It's pretty embarrassing. You can't blame the goalies, though. Ottawa got so many chances."

San Jose, which dropped to 4-2-0-1 under coach Ron Wilson, was playing its third road game in four nights Thursday.

"We weren't very sharp -- our intensity was down," center Vincent Damphousse said. "We've got a lot of games in a short span so we can't afford to dwell on it."

STANDINGS (through Dec. 19): Sharks - 31 points, 4th place, 14 PB, Pacific Division. Maple Leafs - 35 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Selanne, 17 goals; Damphousse, 17 assists; Patrick Marleau, 28 points; Bryan Marchment, 65 PIM. Maple Leafs - Mats Sundin, 16 goals; Mogilny, 22 assists and 35 points; Tie Domi, 56 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 19): Sharks - Power play: 17.9 percent (29 for 162), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (137 for 174), 29th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 19.3 percent (31 for 161), 8th. Penalty killing: 88.0 percent (154 for 175), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Nabokov (10-11-2, 1 SO, 2.61 GAA); Kiprusoff (2-5-0, 4.22). Maple Leafs - Belfour (15-9-2, 5, 1.95); Trevor Kidd (1-5-1, 3.85).

2001-02 SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 29; Maple Leafs, 4-3. At Toronto, Defenseman Bryan McCabe had two goals and an assist to lead Toronto.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 8-7-1-3 on the road; Maple Leafs - 12-7-1-0 at home.
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