January 24, 2004
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (26-12-8-3) at Montreal Canadiens (24-17-6-2). TIME:
Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
With injuries a huge concern, the Maple Leafs wouldn't mind if Alexei Ponikarovsky can turn in another strong offensive performance as they visit the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Ponikarovsky scored two goals Wednesday to lead the Maple Leafs to a 3-2 victory at Washington. The left wing has four goals and 12 points overall this season, with 10 points coming on the road.
"I like that he's starting to shoot the puck," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "He never did shoot the puck before. I've been encouraging him to quit trying to be so pretty and get some at the net."
Toronto is without regular contributors Darcy Tucker, Owen Nolan, Alexander Mogilny, Wade Belak, Robert Reichel and Ken Klee due to injuries.
Tucker, Toronto's third-leading goal-scorer with 14 this season, had left eye surgery Wednesday and will be out indefinitely. The right wing was hit in the face by New York Islanders forward Jason Blake's stick in the second period of Toronto's 2-0 victory Tuesday night.
Nolan has missed nine straight games since being high-sticked in the left eye on Jan. 3. He expects to return next Tuesday.
Mats Sundin, who along with teammate Gary Roberts was recently named to the All-Star team, has 54 points in 62 career games against Montreal.
The Maple Leafs have won two in a row.
The Canadiens come in off a 2-0 loss at New Jersey on Friday. The defeat snapped the Canadiens' five-game (4-0-1) unbeaten streak and prevented Montreal from moving ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champion Devils in the standings.
Montreal has lost just twice in its last 11 games (7-2-2).
Jose Theodore stopped 22 shots Friday, and has allowed two goals or fewer in 20 of his last 23 starts.
STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 63 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Canadiens - 56 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Roberts, 17 goals; Sundin, 29 assists and 45 points; Tie Domi, 116 PIM. Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 17 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 29 assists and 40 points; Darren Langdon, 84 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 22): Maple Leafs - Power play: 18.1 percent (41 for 226), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (201 for 235), 9th. Canadiens - Power play: 19.7 percent (37 for 188), 6th. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (153 for 181), 16th.
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (21-14-5, 5 SO, 2.27 GAA); Trevor Kidd (3-1-1, 1, 2.59). Canadiens - Theodore (20-14-5, 5, 1.99); Mathieu Garon (4-4-1, 0, 2.41).
SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 20; Maple Leafs, 4-2. At Toronto, Sundin scored the go-ahead goal with 29 seconds left and the Maple Leafs registered at least a point for the 14th consecutive game. Pierre Dagenais had a goal and an assist for Montreal.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 13-7-6-1 on the road; Canadiens - 13-8-4-0 at home.