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Maple Leafs end homestand against Blue Jackets

by Brian Hunter

BLUE JACKETS (8-12-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (14-8-1)


Last 10: Columbus 3-4-3; Toronto 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs. Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno each had a goal and an assist to power the Blue Jackets to a 5-2 home win against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 25.

Big story: The Blue Jackets have an almost identical record to the 7-12-4 mark they posted through 23 games last season, when they proceeded to nearly make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a second-half tear. On the plus side, this is an 82-game season, giving them far more time to turn things around. They're also no longer in the Western Conference, where their poor start would have all but buried them. On the other hand, Sergei Bobrovsky (2.95 goals-against average, .904 save percentage) needs to rediscover something close to his Vezina Trophy-winning form in a hurry.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: This is the rubber match of a five-game road trip for Columbus, which has alternated encouraging wins against the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames with blowout losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

Matt Calvert opened the scoring in Vancouver on Friday, but the Blue Jackets would surrender the next five goals in what ended up a 6-2 defeat. They were outshot in the game by a 35-16 margin.

"It's an issue for us," coach Todd Richards said of creating chances. "We're missing guys but you have to find a way to win. Your power play has to step up or you have to win the game 2-1 or 1-0, which is what we did last year."

Maple Leafs: This is the finale of a five-game homestand for Toronto, which gets center Tyler Bozak back in the lineup and will look to make it four wins in five tries at Air Canada Centre before hitting the road for a three-games-in-four-nights stretch.

David Clarkson, limited to two assists in his first 10 games with the Maple Leafs, opened the scoring Saturday against the Washington Capitals with his second goal in three games. The outcome was ultimately decided in a shootout, where Joffrey Lupul scored in the fourth round for a 2-1 win. James Reimer was sensational, making 49 saves in 65 minutes, then denying three of four attempts by the Capitals in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

"It's something that I've been working on and want to get better," said Reimer, who won for only the fourth time in 13 career shootouts. "I don't know if I played them too, too well. I felt that I backed out a little too much on some but still managed to make the saves. It means a lot, but shootouts are shootouts."

Who's hot: Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin has one goal and two assists in the past two games. … Reimer now sports an NHL-leading .947 save percentage for the Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri has one goal and two assists during a three-game point streak.

Injury report: Columbus forward Derek MacKenzie (lower body) is doubtful. Defensemen James Wisniewski (flu-like symptoms) and Dalton Prout (back spasms/food poisoning) practiced Sunday and appear set to play. Dubinsky (bruised foot) is day-to-day, while forwards Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (thumb) and Marian Gaborik (knee) are on injured reserve. Horton practiced with the team Sunday in a no-contact jersey. … Toronto forward Dave Bolland (ankle) is on injured reserve.

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