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Maple Leafs hope to keep rolling against Wild

by Brian Hunter /

WILD (3-1-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (5-1-0)


Season series: First of two meetings this season between the Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs. In their most recent matchup, back on Jan. 19, 2012, Joffrey Lupul set up three goals in a 4-1 victory for the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Big story: The Maple Leafs enter Tuesday tied with the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks atop the NHL standings. The Wild are like everyone else in the Central Division, chasing the Avs, but they've lost just once in regulation over their first half-dozen games.

Team Scope:

Wild: One of the bright spots in Minnesota's first-round Stanley Cup Playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last spring was the performance turned in by backup goalie Josh Harding after Niklas Backstrom went down due to injury. Harding has once again done a terrific job with Backstrom sidelined in the past week, starting three games, winning them all and allowing just one goal in each.

Harding turned aside 22 of 23 shots Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres, and Jason Pominville provided the decisive goal in the 2-1 win, converting on the power play against his former team with 10 seconds remaining in the middle period.

"We've very happy for him," coach Mike Yeo said of Pominville. "He's a guy that brings so much to our team, so much to our locker room. He's a guy that you just want to go out and help him."

Maple Leafs: While Toronto has cruised to a 3-0 road record while outscoring its opponents 11-4, the Maple Leafs haven't looked quite so dominant in front of the home faithful. In fact, they were on the verge of dropping their second game in three home dates Saturday night against a struggling Edmonton Oilers squad before some late heroics.

First it was Lupul scoring with the goaltender pulled and 31 seconds remaining to knot the score at 5-all, and then moments later in overtime Dave Bolland finished off a 3-on-1 break by putting home the rebound of a Cody Franson shot for a wild 6-5 victory.

"We definitely had some breakdowns that led to goals and there's not much he could do about it," said James van Riemsdyk, who also scored twice. "It's a team game and you're just looking for a way to win. They're not all going to be pretty, but we'll take it."

Who's hot: Harding sports a 1.06 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in four appearances for the Wild. Matt Cooke has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak. … Lupul has five goals and three assists during a five-game point streak for the Maple Leafs. Van Riemsdyk has four goals in as many games. Phil Kessel has one goal and three assists in the past two games.

Injury report: Backstrom (knee strain) remains day-to-day for Minnesota, which also has forwards Mike Rupp and Charlie Coyle on injured reserve with knee injuries. … Toronto remains without defenseman Mark Fraser (knee) and forwards Nikolai Kulemin (ankle) and Frazer McLaren (hand). Forward David Clarkson has four games left to serve in his 10-game suspension.

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