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Leafs Set To Bounce Back Against The Canadiens

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
CANADIENS (18-18-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (13-17-8)

Last 10: Montreal 5-4-1; Toronto 5-4-1.

Season Series: This is the fourth of six meetings between the "Original Six" rivals. The Leafs took the most recent showdown in a 3-0 victory on Dec. 1 at the Bell Centre, while the Canadiens won 5-4 in a shootout on Oct. 31 in Montreal after earning a 4-3 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 1.

Big Story: The Christmas turkey will barely have time to digest before these heated rivals hit the ice in Toronto on Saturday night. While neither team enters this game in playoff position, both are still very much involved in the race. The Canadiens have as many points as the No. 8 New York Rangers (39) but have played two more games, while the Leafs are just five points back with plenty of time to catch up.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: One has to wonder if the holiday break came at a good time for Montreal, which enters Saturday's action with a three-game winning streak. The Habs' most recent victory came on Wednesday night, as Jaroslav Halak continue to wrestle the No. 1 goaltending job from Carey Price with a 46-save performance in a 5-1 victory at Carolina. Halak has stopped 133 of 137 shots in his last three games.

"You've got to be lucky for us to win these games. I got lucky tonight, I got lucky the night before and before (that)," Halak said. "Hopefully it's going to stick with me."

Maple Leafs: After earning a point in a hard-fought, 3-2 overtime loss against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, the Leafs came up empty on Wednesday in a 3-1 setback at the hands of the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Toronto tried to rally in the third period, firing 14 shots, but managed to get only one past Dwayne Roloson.

"We didn't compete hard enough on our forecheck until it was too late,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.

Who's Hot: Habs forward Tomas Plekanec has a goal and eight assists in his last three games, while Andrei Kostitsyn has nine tallies in his last 10 contests. … Niklas Hagman scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season on Wednesday night.

Injury Report: Montreal defenseman Paul Mara suffered a wrist injury Monday and was scratched Wednesday. His status for Saturday is uncertain. Roman Hamrlik (knee), who also didn't play against the Hurricanes, is day-to-day, as is forward Brian Gionta (foot). … Leafs center John Mitchell (knee) and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (elbow) are both expected back early next month. Mike Van Ryn (knee) is out for the season.

Stat Pack: Montreal went 2-for-3 on the power play Monday and followed that up with a 3-for-5 performance in Carolina. The Habs have now scored 15 times in their last 32 opportunities.

Puck Drop: "He's a great asset for us on the power play. He can make the pass. He can do anything." -- Habs forward Tomas Plekanec on defenseman Andrei Markov
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