January 6, 2004
GAME: Nashville Predators (18-15-4-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (22-8-8-3).
TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST., TSN
Fresh off their first victory of the new year, the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Maple Leafs will try to figure out the Nashville Predators as the teams meet at the Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs cruised to a 5-0 rout of Pittsburgh on Monday, ending a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) with their first victory since Dec. 26 against the New York Rangers. Toronto's skid came after the Maple Leafs earned a point in a franchise-record 16 straight games.
Toronto has lost four of five all-time meetings with Nashville, with its lone victory in the series coming in a 4-3 home win on Jan. 8, 2002.
The Leafs have lost just twice in 16 home games this season.
They won Monday despite playing without second-leading scorer Owen Nolan and starting goalie Ed Belfour.
Nolan had laser surgery Monday to repair a torn retina in his left eye, and is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks.
Belfour sat out with a leg injury sustained Sunday in practice that isn't believed to be serious.
Trevor Kidd started in Belfour's place, turning away 25 shots for his second win in only four appearances this season.
"It's not easy to lose Owen and Ed, but Trevor stepped up and played a great game," said Leafs center Joe Nieuwendyk, who had a goal and an assist. "One guy goes out and another guy comes in and it seems to really help the team, and that's what you have to have to go a long way."
The Predators had their two-game win streak snapped with Monday's 6-0 defeat at Detroit. Nashville had earned at least a point in nine of its previous 11 games.
Tomas Vokoun allowed four goals against the Red Wings, and was pulled in favor of Chris Mason. Vokoun has been in goal for 77 of Nashville's last 80 games, dating to Dec. 12, 2002.
"This definitely wasn't a good game by me," Vokoun said. "We let them score on almost every chance they got."
Scott Walker, the Predators' leading scorer, had his four-game point streak snapped Monday, but has seven points in his last five games.
Nashville is 6-1-1-1 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.
-- Associated Press