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Leafs Meet Isles For Third Time This Season

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Last 10 -- Toronto 5-4-1; New York 3-7-0

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the third time in a month but the first on Long Island. They split two games at Toronto, with the Islanders winning 4-3 in OT on Nov. 23 thanks to a 58-save performance by Dwayne Roloson and the Leafs pulling out a 3-2 win on Dec. 9.

Big story -- This is a meeting of two teams apparently headed in opposite directions. The Leafs are 13-9-7 after an 0-7-1 start and are starting to give their fans playoff dreams. They're coming off a 3-2 OT loss to Buffalo at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night After a solid November, the Islanders are crashing to earth -- they've lost four in a row at home and are a season-worst four games under .500 after a 4-2 home loss to Tampa Bay on Monday.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs -- The Leafs got three points in home games against Boston (2-0 win) and Buffalo (3-2 OT loss on Monday). But Phil Kessel, their top gun, hasn't had a point in three games and said he's "a little off."

"Lately I feel a little off. I haven't been playing too great lately," he told the Toronto Star said after Tuesday's practice. "You go through stretches like that. I have to pick up my play here."

To clarify, Kessel said: "I haven't been playing as well as before. That's all I meant. Lately I just haven't been the best. That's about it. I haven't been terrible, but I know I've got a lot better than that."

Coach Ron Wilson had the same feeling.

"I agree he's a little off," Wilson said of the winger who has 13 goals and 21 points in 25 games as a Leaf. "He's not skating. He looks a little tired."

 Islanders -- The Isles aren't great playing 5-on-5, but their special teams have been dreadful. New York has allowed 18 goals on the opposition's last 40 power plays over an 11-game span, and Trent Hunter's power-play goal in Monday night's loss to Tampa Bay is their lone extra-man goal in 20 chances over the last three games -- all losses.

"I think it's a lesson learned about by watching their power play and how they move the puck around," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "They don't stand still."

The Isles allowed two power-play goals to TampaBay and have surrendered eight in their last three games.

"It came down to special teams again. It's like a broken record," said forward Nate Thompson, one of the Isles' penalty-killers.

Who's hot -- Toronto rookie Viktor Stahlberg scored twice in three games after being called up. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson is 1-0-1 and has allowed just three goals since returning from a heart procedure. … The Islanders have no one scoring -- they've scored just seven goals in five games, four of which were losses.

Injury report -
- Stahlberg, who scored in Monday night's loss, didn't practice Tuesday and won't make the trip to Long Island. He'll be replaced by Rickard Wallin. … Isles forward Tim Jackman (hip) could be back after missing two weeks. Goaltender Rick DiPietro, whose last NHL win came against the Leafs on Dec. 26, 2008, is skating with the team again as he tries to come back after hip and knee surgeries. He figures to have another minor-league stint before playing an NHL game.

Stat pack -- The Buffalo-Toronto game featured only one minor penalty, and the Leafs did not have a power play. … Toronto is 1-8 in overtime this season, including the loss to the Islanders in November. … The Islanders have been outscored 19-5 during their four-game home losing streak, during which the power play is 1-for-21 and the penalty kill has allowed 10 goals in 17 opposition power plays.

Puck drop -- "At some point, we need to put together a winning streak. I don't think last year you could say a four-game winning streak was right around the corner. Right now, we still have a lot more work to do, but we could get there." -- Gordon, as reported by

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