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Devils try to avoid 10-game slide vs. Maple Leafs

by Brian Compton

DEVILS (15-16-10) at MAPLE LEAFS (23-13-5)


Last 10: New Jersey 1-5-4; Toronto 7-1-2

Season Series: This is the third of three meetings. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won the first two showdowns, outscoring the New Jersey Devils by a 6-3 margin.

Big Story: After reaching the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, the Devils are in serious danger of missing the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs entirely. They enter Monday’s action six points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference with seven games to play.

Toronto, meanwhile, is all but assured of making the playoffs for the first time in nine years. The Maple Leafs have won seven of their past 10 games and have earned points in nine of them. They currently reside in fifth place in the East.

Team Scope:

Devils: New Jersey’s woes continued Friday, when it suffered a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators at the Prudential Center despite outshooting the Sens 33-11. The Devils have yet to win since star winger Ilya Kovalchuk suffered a shoulder injury, as Friday made it nine straight games without a victory (0-5-4).

With another loss Monday, the Devils would equal the team record of 10 straight losses set Oct. 14 to Nov. 4, 1983.

"If there's a blame to go around, it should go to the coaches," coach Pete DeBoer said. "We've got to find a way to give these guys some tools and find a way to win some games."

Maple Leafs: Toronto stormed out of the gate in its most recent victory Saturday, as it scored on four of its first five shots en route to an impressive 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.

Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Jay McClement, Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel all scored for the Maple Leafs, who have recorded at least a point in 12 of their past 13 games (8-1-4).

"Sometimes when you take a big lead, there's a tendency to back off a bit and not play as diligently as you can," said goaltender James Reimer, who stopped 36 of 37 shots. "I thought we stuck to the game plan. Those can be the toughest games to play because you have a couple-goal lead and you just want to play loosy-goosy. We stayed sharp and it says a lot about our character to continue playing our game."

Who's hot: Leafs winger Phil Kessel has five goals and three assists in the past four games, while Reimer has allowed two or fewer goals in three of his past four starts.

Injury report: Ilya Kovalchuk (shoulder) and Bryce Salvador (wrist) are questionable for the Devils, while Johan Hedberg (lower body) will back up Martin Brodeur. Neither Kovalchuk nor Salvador practiced Sunday. Anton Volchenkov, meanwhile, is still serving a suspension for his elbow on Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. … The Leafs will be without forward Joffrey Lupul (concussion). Lupul was cleared for contact this weekend.

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