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Leafs seek rare win in Calgary

by John Kreiser

MAPLE LEAFS (14-18-9) at FLAMES (23-12-5)

Last 10 -- Toronto 4-4-2; Calgary 4-4-2

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Calgary beat the Leafs 5-2 at Toronto on Nov. 14. Calgary has won the last four games against the Leafs at the Pengrowth Saddledome, where Toronto hasn't won since Dec. 27, 2002.

Big story -- A rare Saturday night visit from the Leafs figures to energize the usual full house at the Pengrowth Saddledome, a place where the Flames have struggled for much of the season. But they're coming into this one off back-to-back home wins over Los Angeles and Edmonton while playing the kind of shutdown defense coach Brent Sutter has been preaching.

Team scope

Maple Leafs -- After a stretch of improved hockey that had Toronto fans dreaming of the playoffs, the Leafs have slipped over the last couple of weeks. They are capable of terrific performances -- they beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday -- but haven't been able to put together a string of them, as witnessed with a poor effort in Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Edmonton.

"Since my time here, we've been a really up-and-down hockey team," defenseman Ian White told the media. "Maybe the times when we are really good, we play a good couple of games in a row and we let our guard down against a team that's not as high in the standings and they seem to take it to us."

Flames -- After going without a goal in his first 36 games of the season, Calgary center Craig Conroy has rediscovered his scoring touch. Conroy got off the schneid on Wednesday with a goal against Los Angeles, then scored the game's first goal on Thursday as the Flames edged Edmonton 2-1.

"Hopefully it continues in 2010," the 38-year-old said of his mini-streak. "It definitely helps your confidence to get one. All of a sudden, you just feel like the weight of the world's off your shoulders."

Who's hot -- The Leafs continue to struggle offensively, though Jason Blake has goals in two of his last three games.

Injury report -- The Leafs might get forward Viktor Stahlberg (shoulder) back. The Flames are healthy except for defenseman Cory Sarich, who hasn't played since late November.

Stat pack -- Toronto reached the halfway mark of the season with 37 points. At that pace, the Leafs would finish with 74, their lowest total since 1997-98. … Calgary's Rene Bourque had a hat trick on Monday and has six points in his last three games. Miikka Kiprusoff has won his last two starts while stopping 57 of 59 shots.

Puck drop -- Calgary has been a tough place for the Leafs to win during the past decade. Fatigue could be one factor on the Leafs' side -- this is Calgary's fifth game in seven days, though only one was on the road (at Edmonton on Monday).

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