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Young Teams Square Off In Edmonton

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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Brian Hunter  - Staff Writer     


Last 10 -- Toronto 4-5-1; Edmonton 6-3-1

Season series -- This marks the conclusion of the season series after Edmonton took the opener 5-0 in Toronto on Dec. 2. It was Nikolai Khabibulin's first game back from injury and he stopped all 33 shots he faced. Rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle stole the show offensively, with Eberle opening the scoring and Hall adding a pair of goals.

Big story -- The Maple Leafs started fast, winning their first four games this season, but it's been the Oilers coming on strong of late. With the Western Conference jam-packed from top to bottom, it's not unrealistic to think this young but talented Edmonton squad could be a playoff contender if it can continue to get strong play in goal from Khabibulin and backup Devan Dubnyk.
Team Scope:

Maple Leafs --
There was a positive vibe in Toronto after Phil Kessel and Tomas Kaberle scored first-period goals to spark a 3-1 win against Montreal on Saturday, the third in a five-game stretch which also featured Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as opponents. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 22 saves and won for the second time in three starts since returning from a groin injury.

"You look at the whole week and we essentially did something (no one expected)," coach Ron Wilson said. "I don't think anybody said we were even going to win one of those games. We won three of them so I'm proud of our team."

Oilers -- Since its last meeting with Toronto, all four games Edmonton has played have come down to the wire -- two were decided in a shootout, another in overtime, and most recently the Oilers fell 2-1 to the Canucks on Sunday. It was a disappointing loss because they failed to test Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in the third period, not managing a shot on goal until Eberle scored with under five seconds remaining. But the Oilers didn’t have enough time to pressure for the tying goal.

"We allowed a real good team to come in and have it easy," coach Tom Renney said. "We certainly need to be better.

"I'm disappointed in our compete. Vancouver is a good team but they didn't blow the doors off of anybody here. That's probably the most frustrating thing. We had an opportunity to beat a very good team if we had been as ready as we have been for most of this month."

Who's hot -- Mikhail Grabovski scored goals in three-straight games for the Maple Leafs before being held off the board by the Canadiens. Kaberle's goal was his first of the season, but he also has 5 assists in as many games. ... Hall has 4 goals in his last five games and 7 in his last 11 for the Oilers.

Injury report -- Toronto forward Mike Brown is on injured reserve with a broken finger, forward Jay Rosehill is day-to-day with a broken nose and defenseman Mike Komisarek is out 1-2 weeks with a finger injury. ... Edmonton defenseman Jim Vandermeer is day-to-day with an ankle injury, while forwards Ales Hemsky (groin) and Shawn Horcoff (knee) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack -- The Maple Leafs and Oilers have identical .636 winning percentages when scoring first in a game, tying them for 23rd in the League.

Puck drop -- Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf, recovered from a serious skate laceration to his leg and back in the lineup, will play in his hometown of Edmonton on Tuesday and then Thursday he'll play in Calgary where his NHL career started.

"I really enjoy playing in Edmonton in front of my family and friends. It's always a special building to play in, and then going back to Calgary, I had a lot of good years there, played a lot of hockey in that building," he told the Toronto Star.

"I'm excited about the trip, but our focus, first and foremost, is one game at a time. It's not me going to Calgary; it's our team going in to win a hockey game."

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