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Leafs Return Home To Host Thrashers

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

THRASHERS (15-8-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (8-13-7)

Last 10: Atlanta 6-2-2; Toronto 5-3-2

Season Series: This is the first of four meetings between the teams. They last met on Jan. 16, when Rich Peverley scored with 1:09 left in overtime to lift the Thrashers to a 4-3 win at Philips Arena.

Big Story: If Toronto is going to make any type of a playoff push, this would be the time. The Maple Leafs, who sit in last place in the Northeast Division, play five of their next six games at the Air Canada Centre.

Team Scope:

Atlanta bounced back from a 4-1 loss on home ice to the New York Islanders on Thursday with a 2-1 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on Saturday. Ilya Kovalchuk erased a 1-0 deficit with just 1:04 remaining in regulation before Peverley notched the game-winner in the shootout. Johan Hedberg made 30 saves for Atlanta's fifth win in its last six games.

"To get that final goal in the last minute was huge," Peverley said. "Coming out of here with two points is really big."

Maple Leafs: One has to wonder how much sleep Toronto coach Ron Wilson got after watching his team get lambasted in Boston on Saturday in a 7-2 loss. The Leafs fell behind 7-0 before scoring a pair of goals late in the period when the game was already well out of reach.

"This game was over halfway through the second period," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, we didn't do anything right."

Who's Hot:
After going three straight games without a goal, Kovalchuk has three in the last five games and has 16 for the season. … Niklas Hagman scored late in the third period on Saturday -- his 30th birthday -- and has a team-high 14 goals for the Leafs.

Injury Report:
Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen is expected to miss most of December as he recovers from back surgery. … Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (heart rate) is out 7-10 days, while defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (elbow) and center John Mitchell (knee) are expected to return next month. Mike Van Ryn is out for the season with a knee injury.

Stat Pack: Saturday's win improved Atlanta's road record to 9-2-1. The Thrashers will play 12 of their next 16 games away from Philips Arena -- a good test as they attempt to stay in the Southeast Division hunt.

Puck Drop:
It's now or never for the Maple Leafs, who currently sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. They must perform on home ice this month if they plan on closing the seven-point gap that sits between them and a playoff spot.
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