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Maple Leafs aim to bounce back against Blues

by Brian Hunter

MAPLE LEAFS (16-13-3) at BLUES (20-6-3)


Last 10: Toronto 3-5-2; St. Louis 7-3-0

Season series: This is the first of two games this season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues. They face each other for the first time since Nov. 10, 2011, when Phil Kessel had the only goal of the shootout to lead Toronto to a 3-2 win in St. Louis.

Big story: Brian Elliott will make his eighth start and second in a row for the Blues. The veteran is enjoying another fine season, with a 2.04 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. James Reimer could be in line to start for the Maple Leafs after Jonathan Bernier got the nod Wednesday and lost 3-1 to his former team, the Los Angeles Kings.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: There were plenty of storylines to choose from Wednesday. Toronto got forward Joffrey Lupul back in the lineup after a seven-game absence, but was without defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who started serving a two-game suspension that concludes Thursday.

Bernier was eventually traded from Los Angeles because the Kings have Jonathan Quick, but the goalie opposing him Wednesday was rookie Martin Jones, who has manned the net with Ben Scrivens while Quick recovers from a groin injury. Cody Franson ended Jones' bid for a third straight shutout with a power-play goal in the second period, but the Maple Leafs were denied on their other 38 shots in a 3-1 defeat.

"They're down," coach Randy Carlyle said of his players. "Because we had so many opportunities, so many offensive chances."

Blues: Elliott arrived in St. Louis two seasons ago with Jaroslav Halak firmly entrenched as the No. 1 goalie, but Elliott has enjoyed his moments with the Blues as well. He posted a 1.56 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and nine shutouts in just 38 games in 2011-12 and has been their main man in the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the past two seasons while Halak battled injuries.

Elliott will appear in his third straight game and make his second consecutive start after relieving Halak early in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday and then backstopping a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday in which Alex Pietrangelo provided the decisive power-play goal with 3:02 remaining.

"I really like the way we fought," coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "As the game wore on, our confidence came back to fight for pucks and battle.

"I thought the debris from what's happened here in the last week or so started to eliminate. We just started to get our spirit back and really battle."

Who's hot: Kessel has four goals and five assists in his past eight games for the Maple Leafs. … Shattenkirk has two goals and four assists during a four-game point streak for the Blues.

Injury report: Toronto has forwards Dave Bolland (ankle), Tyler Bozak (oblique) and Colton Orr (elbow) on injured reserve. … St. Louis defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) and forward Ryan Reaves (hand) are on IR.

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