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Canadiens and Maple Leafs renew hostilities

by Arpon Basu

CANADIENS (26-9-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (22-13-5)


Last 10: Montreal 6-4-0; Toronto 6-1-3

Season series: This is the fourth of five meetings this season between the Original Six rivals and the first of back-to-back meetings on Hockey Night in Canada. Visiting teams are perfect so far -- the Toronto Maple Leafs won both games at Bell Centre, but the Montreal Canadiens won in their lone visit to Air Canada Centre.

Big story: This could potentially be a preview of a first-round series between the clubs, who haven't met in the playoffs since 1979. A Canadiens victory would all but assure them of the home-ice advantage in the first round.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Montreal coach Michel Therrien has been asked for weeks to speculate on the likely event that his team would make the playoffs, but he refused to do until there was a little "x" next to the Canadiens in the standings.

But on the very first day Therrien had his little "x," he was asked to speculate on something else - the possibility of the Leafs and Canadiens meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1979.

Remaining true to form, Therrien didn't bite.

"We're not going to spend the next few weeks speculating on who we might play in the playoffs," Therrien told the media, according to the Canadiens' website. "For sure there's a rivalry here that would be interesting for the two teams and the two cities and for the passionate fans on both sides, but honestly, I'm not about to start speculating; we have no idea who we're going to face in the first round.

Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs may be facing the Canadiens without Mikhail Grabovski, who missed practice Friday while he underwent a test for a gastrointestinal problem that's been causing him to lose weight.

Coach Randy Carlyle said Grabovski had had the problem for quite some time.

"It's been a process that's probably gone on for more than two years with him," Carlyle told reporters. "So it's not something that just flared up."

Carlyle would not rule out Grabovski for Saturday's game, saying his status would depend on the diagnosis in New York. In his place, American Hockey League call-up Joe Colborne took his spot between Jay McClement and Leo Komarov at practice.

Who's hot: Montreal rookie Alex Galchenyuk has a five-game points streak, with three goals and three assists over that span to run his season total to 21 points. Michael Ryder, who will be playing opposite Galchenyuk on a line with Lars Eller, has three goals and three assists in his last four games… For the Maple Leafs, goaltender James Reimer has lost in regulation once in six games. Phil Kessel has four goals and two assists in his past three games and James van Riemsdyk has two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak.

Injury report: The Canadiens are missing defensemen Alexei Emelin (knee) and Raphael Diaz (concussion) and forward Colby Armstrong (knee)…The Maple Leafs are without forward Joffrey Lupul (concussion) and are likely to be without Grabovski as well.

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