FLAMES (11-4-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (3-9-5)
Calgary 7-2-1; Toronto 3-3-4
First of two meetings this season between Canadian rivals. Toronto pays a visit to Calgary on Jan. 2, 2010. Each team won on its home ice last season, with the Flames claiming a 4-3 win behind a pair of Dustin Boyd goals and the Leafs prevailing in a wild 8-6 barnburner as Mikhail Grabovski
A goaltending duel Friday night between Miikka Kiprusoff
and Ryan Miller didn't go Calgary's way, as Buffalo came away 2-1 winners in a shootout. The Flames had won three straight road games since a 2-1 defeat in Columbus exactly one month earlier. Daymond Langkow
opened the scoring just 1:04 into the game, but Derek Roy evened things up on the power play later in the first and Jason Pominville's shootout goal proved decisive.
"It was physical, and it was a fun game to be a part of," captain Jarome Iginla
said. "We were looking forward to this challenge to keep our string going because the Sabres have a good record. Unfortunately it didn't end the way we wanted it to."
Maple Leafs --
The return of Phil Kessel
and streaks of two straight wins and seven straight games with at least one point inspired visions of a turnaround in Leafs Nation, but Toronto has now dropped consecutive games in regulation to Minnesota and Chicago. Kessel did his best to rally the Leafs from a 3-0 deficit Friday, scoring twice against the Blackhawks, but they came up a goal short. Vesa Toskala did turn in a strong effort with 31 saves.
''Vesa had an outstanding night. There was nothing he could do on any of the goals,'' coach Ron Wilson said. ''He made a dozen outstanding saves.''
Who's Hot --
Kiprusoff continued a streak of allowing no more than one goal in his last four starts (3-0-1), and he has a .975 save percentage during that span. Iginla had at least one goal in four straight games before he was blanked by the Sabres.
Kessel has needed just five games to crack the Leafs' top 10 in scoring with six points (four goals, two assists).
Injury Report --
Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek
was placed on injured reserve with a quadriceps injury that is expected to keep him out for three weeks.
Stat Pack --
Leafs goaltenders have a collective goals-against average of 3.65, ranking them 29th in the League (Carolina, 3.67). Jonas Gustavsson
, who will probably get the start Saturday, has a GAA almost a full goal lower at 2.77, to go with a 3-3-3 record and very respectable .912 save percentage in his first nine NHL games.
Puck Drop --
In its previous Saturday night game at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto turned in its best performance of the season with a 5-1 thumping of two-time defending Western Conference champion Detroit. The Leafs have been unable to match that effort in their two games since, but perhaps playing in front of an enthused Hockey Night In Canada crowd will give them the extra motivation needed to deal with one of the West's more complete squads.