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Leafs renew storied rivalry with Habs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Tony Care

The Leafs will have plenty to work on when they renew their storied rivalry with the Canadiens at the Molson Centre on Saturday night. Toronto is coming off a 5-4 loss to Ottawa in its home opener on Wednesday night. Special teams is an area that the Leafs need to improve on if they want to beat a Canadiens team that went 2-6 on the power play against Ottawa on Thursday.

The Leafs gave up three power-play goals on five chances including the game winner by Sens forward Todd White. While it's still early, Toronto's defence was less than stellar in its first regular season game and throughout the preseason. Leaf defencemen made some crucial giveaways in their own zone that resulted in Ottawa goals.

However, the defence shouldn't shoulder all of the responsibility. Alexander Mogilny said the forwards need to do a better job of coming back and helping out the defence. As a result, Leaf Coach Pat Quinn put his team through some intense drills to focus on cutting down the mental mistakes.

"We need the work and there is no other way around it," Quinn said. "We need to be better at what we are trying to do. They (the players) know we need some practice time and they worked hard at the drills (Thursday). Teams that expect high performance have to get lots of work in to get that performance to happen. We're out of whack in a few areas."

The good news is that the Leafs' revamped offence looks ready to have a big year. The second line of Mogilny, Gary Roberts and Robert Reichel combined for six points. Mogilny was the star of the game for the Leafs. He had two goals and showed of his magnificent scoring ability. The Leaf forwards should apply a lot of pressure on a somewhat young and unproven Montreal defence.

The Canadiens were impressive with their 6-2 win over the Senators. Brian Savage, as he usually does early on, led the Canadiens with four points. While Savage, Yanic Perreault, Joe Juneau and Benoit Brunet all have the skill be put up decent offensive numbers, coach Michel Therrien has stressed defence first.

The Canadiens are also dealing with the terrible news that their captain and offensive leader, Saku Koivu, will miss the entire season after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in his abdomen.

"I will win this fight and I'll be back on the ice before you know it," said Koivu during a press conference in Montreal on Friday. "Lance Armstrong, Mario Lemieux, John Cullen all called me. They all had cancer. They beat it. It's been a huge inspiration for myself."

It will be an emotional night in Montreal on Saturday. A Toronto and Montreal game always brings out the excitement in the fans, but the Canadiens will also play especially hard for their fallen teammate.
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