Turning to a former Toronto Maple Leaf in net has helped revive the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Coyotes seek to continue their recent momentum as they wrap up a four-game homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, with Phoenix goaltender Mikael Tellqvist expected to face his former team for the first time.
Phoenix (11-11-2) endured a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) from Nov. 13-24, during which it allowed three goals or more in each game. Ilya Bryzgalov got charged with five of the losses.
Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky has opted to start Tellqvist in the last four games, with excellent results. The netminder has allowed only six goals in that span while compiling a .955 save percentage and leading Phoenix to three victories.
On Tuesday, Tellqvist made 32 saves in a 4-2 home victory over Los Angeles. Enver Lisin scored twice in a four-minute span of the third period to help the Coyotes rally from a 2-1 deficit.
"We're 21 guys doing the job," said Tellqvist, who has a 1.64 GAA and a .950 save percentage at home. "As long as they keep it to the outside and let me make the first save, we're going to play well."
Thursday brings a chance for Tellqvist to face the team that drafted him. Selected by the Maple Leafs (9-10-6) in the third round of the 2000 draft, he played 40 games over parts of four seasons in Toronto before being traded to Phoenix in November 2006.
"It's going to be more important, obviously, than any other game, but I'm going to approach it as if it's any other game," Tellqvist told the Coyotes' official Web site.
His task won't be easy against a Toronto team averaging three goals per game.
"(They) go to the net hard and they play hard," Gretzky said of the Leafs. "Our challenge is to be strong defensively, and if we can stay composed defensively, we'll be OK."
Where Toronto has been shaky is on defense. The Maple Leafs have surrendered 27 goals in their last eight games (2-4-2), and allowed an opponent to score at least five goals for the eighth time this season on Tuesday in a 5-2 loss at league-leading San Jose.
"If we somehow could have survived maybe the first 10 minutes of the game, we would have found an equilibrium, but it was over by then," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of his team, which trailed 4-0 after the first 17:07.
Vesa Toskala, who yielded all five goals in the defeat, is 8-2-1 with two shutouts and a 2.33 GAA in 15 games versus Phoenix.
Niklas Hagman had a goal and an assist against San Jose, giving him two goals and six points in his last five games.
Phoenix had dropped six straight games to Toronto before winning the last two matchups, most recently a 5-1 victory at home on Nov. 24, 2007.