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Canadiens try to snap out of slump vs. Leafs

by Sergei J. Feldman /
MAPLE LEAFS (23-26-6) at CANADIENS (30-20-6)


Last 10 -- Toronto 5-4-1; Montreal 4-3-3

Season series -- The two Original Six rivals meet for the fourth of six times this season. Toronto has taken two out of the first three, including a 3-1 win in their last meeting on Dec. 11. The home team has won all three games.

Big story -- The Habs are where the Leafs want to be -- in the top eight in the East. But the Canadiens have dropped three in a row, including a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders on Thursday, while the Leafs are 4-1-1 since the All-Star break despite Thursday's 2-1 OT loss to New Jersey.

Team scope:

Maple Leafs -- The Leafs' post-All Star surge has moved them within eight points of eighth-place Atlanta as they begin a three-game trip with a visit to the Bell Centre. The Maple Leafs have a 10-15-1 record away from the Air Canada Centre, and matters won't get any easier, as the Habs are an impressive 18-7-5 at home.

Despite seeing a point get away in the OT loss to New Jersey, coach Ron Wilson is pleased with the way his team is approaching each game.

"I don't count it as loss, we got a point," he said. "We moved another step closer. Now we're seven points back of Carolina because they lost in regulation. Obviously, I wish we'd had the two points but the Devils are playing great right now."

Canadiens -- The Canadiens have been in the top eight in the East virtually all season, but they need to get back on the right track after a bad week -- home losses to the Devils and Islanders, sandwiched around Wednesday's wild 8-6 slugfest at Boston.

The loss to the Islanders, a game that saw them lose three one-goal leads before being beaten in the shootout, did not leave coach Jacques Martin with a smile on his face.

"After two periods I thought we controlled the play pretty well," Martin said. "A couple of breakdowns, they capitalized, and we need to be better in a couple of areas. I think there were elements of fatigue, some mental mistakes that were caused by fatigue."

Who's hot -- Forward Tomas Plekanec has been shouldering the load for the Habs, earning points in four of his past five games, while Mikhail Grabovski has three points in his past three efforts for the Leafs, while not being a minus player in seven straight games.

Injury report -- Colby Armstrong is listed as day-to-day for the Leafs with an eye injury; Colton Orr (head) and Mike Brown (upper body) are out. … For Montreal, Hal Gill (upper body) and Mathieu Darche (lower body) didn't play Thursday and are day-to-day and Mike Cammalleri (shoulder) is still out.

Stat pack -- Phil Kessel scored in both of Toronto's home wins over the Canadiens this season, but has never scored in 13 career games at the Bell Centre. He's also gone 13 games without a goal anywhere, two games short of a career-worst.

Puck drop -- Rookie James Reimer is making a strong case to become the No. 1 goalie in Toronto. He stopped 37 shots in the OT loss to New Jersey and has been solid in all but one start. Reimer has a 2.54 goals-against average since being recalled from the minors in late January, compared to 3.82 for starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"He played really well," captain Dion Phaneuf said after Thursday's OT loss. "Like he has every game that he's played, he's given us a chance to win."

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