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Canadiens host slumping Maple Leafs

by Sean McCullen

MAPLE LEAFS (14-9-3) at CANADIENS (14-9-3)


Last 10: Toronto 3-4-3; Montreal 6-2-2

Season series: This is the second of five games. The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on opening night. The teams don't see each other again until the Canadiens come to Air Canada Centre on Jan. 18.

Big story: These longtime rivals come into the game with identical records, but they have been heading in opposite directions. The Maple Leafs, who have slipped to fifth place in the Atlantic Division after finishing October atop the division, have dropped three in a row and are 4-5-3 in November. The Canadiens come into the game on a 5-1-1 run.

Toronto has won four of six games against the Canadiens since the start of the 2012-13 season.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto has had a rough week. It started Monday with a 6-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Then came a 6-5 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday after the Maple Leafs held a 4-1 lead. The Maple Leafs stayed winless this week by losing 3-2 in overtime to the League-worst Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

Toronto led Buffalo 2-1 late in the second period but wound up settling for a single point; afterward, coach Randy Carlyle seemed at a loss to explain his team's recent skid.

"The breaks aren't going our way," he said. "That's when you've got to find ways to create more."

The Maple Leafs are allowing an NHL-worst 35.8 shots on goal per game.

Canadiens: Montreal let a point slip away Friday against the Washington Capitals when Mikhail Grabovski beat goalie Peter Budaj to tie the game at 2-2 with 5:32 left in regulation and again in the shootout to win it for Washington. The loss snapped the Canadiens' four-game winning streak.

Still, coach Michel Therrien was pleased with his team's effort against the Capitals.

"I thought we played well enough to win the game," he said, "so I'm disappointed that we came up short, but I believe our effort was there and when you go to a shootout, you never know.

"We found a way to score two goals, but it was not good enough."

Who's hot: Phil Kessel scored in the losses to Buffalo and Pittsburgh. He has four goals in Toronto's past six games and leads the team with 14. Center Tyler Bozak has three points (one goal) in three games since returning from a hamstring injury. … Canadiens goalie Carey Price is 3-1-1 in his past five starts with a .957 save percentage (155 saves on 162 shots). Center Tomas Plekanec has two goals his past three games.

Injury report: Montreal defenseman Douglas Murray (upper body) sat out the game Friday. Forward Rene Bourque (groin) is almost ready to return. … Toronto is without forward Joffrey Lupul (groin) and center Dave Bolland (groin).

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