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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will look to win a third straight game for the first time since the start of the season when they play host Friday to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Prudential Center.

The Devils have won two straight but failed to get a third on four occasions this season. The last time they won three straight was Oct. 9-14 with victories against the Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

"After the win, the first thing you say is you won and that's important," Devils interim coach Lou Lamoriello said. "Sure, you want to win three in a row because that means you won the game and that's all we're concerned about. It's not so much the streak, but the importance of winning that game."

The Devils have scored two or fewer goals in three of the past four games (3-0-1), and the third goal scored by Steve Bernier against the Florida Panthers in a 3-1 win on Jan. 31 was into an empty net. Defenseman Mark Fraser was asked what Scott Stevens has preached to the defense corps since moving behind the bench on Dec. 27.

"Puck retrievals, being good in quick transition and how to read forechecks," Fraser said. "Communication with the goalie and just trying to simplify things. The better we get at that, the easier and smoother we can get out of our zone. Part of it right now is trying to make the exits easier and clogging up the neutral zone, and so far we've done a good job of it, but the better we can get at it, the better we can get transitioning out. That will translate into offense and less time in our zone."

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are looking to snap a 10-game winless streak (0-9-1). Toronto interim coach Peter Horachek is 1-10-1 since taking over for Randy Carlyle; the one victory was a 5-2 decision against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 9.

Goaltender James Reimer, who starts Friday, hasn't won since a 33-save, 4-3 shootout victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 14.

Right wing Phil Kessel, who leads the team with 45 points in 52 games, has one goal in the past 10 games.

"I'm pretty sure I've gone through stretches like this in my career, so you just have to stay positive," Kessel said. "I'm not happy about it. I'm obviously disappointed what's gone on here and I've got to be better."

Horachek would like to see a complete 60-minute effort and an ability to close out a game the right way. He said sometimes that means doing things out of your comfort zone. What does he want to see from his top line of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Kessel?

"I want them to score and not get scored on, it's that simple," Horachek said. "Their job is to score and create scoring chances, be a threat. They can be a dangerous line. They bring offense and that's what we need them to do. But they can't be a liability in the other end."

Van Riemsdyk, who has two goals in the past 10 games, knows what the Devils will bring to the table. The native of Middletown, N.J., will have his parents, aunt and uncle and several friends at the game.

"We have to play patient," he said. "We know how good defensively the Devils are and what type of style they play, so you can't try too many high risk plays. You've got to stick with it and make the smart play."

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Mike Santorelli - Daniel Winnik

David Booth - Nazem Kadri - Richard Panik

Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - David Clarkson

Morgan Rielly - Cody Franson

Korbinian Holzer - Stephane Robidas

Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Josh Leivo, Trevor Smith

Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand)


Dainius Zubrus - Mike Cammalleri - Jaromir Jagr

Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Martin Havlat

Adam Henrique - Scott Gomez - Steve Bernier

Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky

Mark Fraser - Peter Harrold

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Eric Gelinas, Michael Ryder

Injured: Stephen Gionta (fractured hand), Damon Severson (fractured left ankle), Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (suspected concussion)

Status report: Lamoriello confirmed there would be no change to the lineup, meaning Ryder will serve as a healthy scratch a fifth straight game.

Who's hot: Schneider is 6-1-1 in his past eight decisions and has a 1.78 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in nine games in 2015. … Santorelli, who will center the second line, had a goal and one assist in a 4-3 loss against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

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