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Maple Leafs' Clarkson faces Devils for first time

by Mike Battaglino

DEVILS (4-7-4) at MAPLE LEAFS (10-5-0)


Last 10: New Jersey 4-5-1; Toronto 6-4-0

Season series: This is the first of three games. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the New Jersey Devils in all three games last season.

Big story: Toronto forward David Clarkson faces his former team for the first time after leaving this summer as a free agent. After missing the first 10 games of the season due to a suspension from the preseason, Clarkson has been used by coach Randy Carlyle as part of the primary checking line, with Mason Raymond and Dave Bolland.

In five games, Clarkson has one assist; he scored 12 goals for the Devils in 2012-13 after a 30-goal season in 2011-12.

"In Jersey I was used to playing a different role, for the last four years, and was successful doing that," Clarkson said Wednesday. "And coming to a new situation, where maybe Randy is trying to feel me out, I don't know, but I'm asked to do my job, and that's what I do. Whatever the coach asks you, that's what you do. He's your boss and you go out there and do what he asks."

Team Scope:

Devils: This is the fourth back-to-back set of the season for New Jersey, the second with both on the road. The Devils shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 on Thursday, their first win in a back-to-back scenario this season (1-3-3).

The Devils have allowed more than one goal once in their past four games, and have given up four total in their four wins.

"That defensive foundation is a key," coach Peter DeBoer said. "The goals don't come easy for us, I think we know that, but if you've got that foundation you give yourself a chance to win every night."

Martin Brodeur made 22 saves against Philadelphia for his first shutout of the season. Asked if that would get him consecutive starts, instead of backing up Cory Schneider on Friday, Brodeur told MSG Network with a laugh, "It doesn't work like that anymore. It used to."

Maple Leafs: Off since Saturday, Toronto traveled home from Western Canada, took part in community events and practiced three times since then, including Thursday.

The Maple Leafs have won four of their past six and are two points out of the Eastern Conference lead. Carlyle expects more.

"The on-ice commitment, our level of work, has to go up. And we've stated that," he said. "And we've asked our players that the message is going to start to be delivered in a different manner. Simple as that; if we're not going to get the results that we're looking for, and it's not just about wins, it's about how we play, and our work ethic on our forecheck, our work ethic on our backcheck, our dogged determination around the puck, are all things that we believe have to go up."

Toronto will attempt all that without its top two centers, Tyler Bozak and Bolland, each out with an injury. James van Riemsdyk will move to the middle, and Jerred Smithson was signed to help with faceoffs and penalty killing.

The Maple Leafs also changed two defense pairs. Jake Gardiner moves to play with Cody Franson with Mark Fraser returning from a knee injury to skate with Paul Ranger. Morgan Rielly will be scratched.

Jonathan Bernier will start in goal, with James Reimer likely to start Saturday at the Boston Bruins.

Who's hot: Brodeur has won three of four and has allowed two goals over the past three. … Van Riemsdyk has 11 points in his past nine games.

Injury report: Devils forward Travis Zajac (lower body) and defensemen Peter Harrold (elbow) and Anton Volchenkov (lower body) returned to play Thursday, but defenseman Eric Gelinas (lower body) was injured. Forward Patrik Elias (back) was placed on injured reserve, joining forward Ryane Clowe (head) and defenseman Bryce Salvador (foot). Defenseman Jon Merrill (face) is out. … Bozak (hamstring) and Bolland (ankle) are out indefinitely.

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