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Jets try to close ground in East as Maple Leafs visit

by Brian Hunter

MAPLE LEAFS (15-10-1) at JETS (12-11-2)


Last 10: Toronto 5-4-1; Winnipeg 6-3-1

Season series: Second of three meetings. Matt Frattin and Phil Kessel scored goals 54 seconds apart late in the third period to lift Toronto to a 3-2 win in Winnipeg on Feb. 7. James Reimer made 23 saves.

Big story: Seeking to return the Stanley Cup Playoffs to Winnipeg for the first time since 1996, the Jets get a couple cracks this week at the Maple Leafs, who themselves are trying to end the NHL's longest current postseason drought. The Jets are five points behind the Leafs, but just two points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: It's only a two-game losing streak Toronto carries into Tuesday's action, but given the way some promising seasons have gone south quickly in years past for the Maple Leafs, they would prefer to get back in the win column as quickly as possible. The upside of Saturday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Penguins was rallying from a 3-1 deficit after one period and 4-3 after two to pick up a point. Phil Kessel assisted on goals by James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson before scoring the equalizer with 4:20 left in regulation.

"It was a good measuring stick for us tonight against one of the top teams," said Clarke MacArthur, who also tallied. "It was a great job by us sticking with it -- getting back and getting a point. At the end of the day that's what we are out for. It would have been nice to get two, but it was good to get the one."

Jets: Six of the next eight games for Winnipeg will be played at MTS Centre, where the Jets likely must improve on a 4-6-0 record if they're going to make up the necessary ground in the playoff race. They're coming off a 2-1-1 road trip that ended Sunday in New Jersey with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Devils. The Jets also did well to pick up the point, though, spotting the home team a 2-0 lead before Mark Stuart scored and later set up Evander Kane for the tying goal. Ondrej Pavelec was solid with 25 saves.

"We got five points and we're going home and we know we have to be better," Pavelec said. "We need a better start, that's for sure. The points are great, but we won't be a success if we play like we did."

Who's hot: Kessel has a pair of three-point efforts in the Maple Leafs' past three games, and three goals in the past four games. Dion Phaneuf had three assists Saturday and has 15 points for the season, one behind Franson for the team lead among defensemen. … Stuart had his first multi-point game for the Jets since recording two assists against the Panthers on March 1, 2012.

Injury report: Toronto is awaiting the return of forward Joffrey Lupul from a broken forearm. … Winnipeg defensemen Tobias Enstrom (shoulder) and Zach Redmond (leg) and forward Anthony Peluso (hand) are on injured reserve.

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