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Maple Leafs look to gain momentum before holiday

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- A difficult stretch for the Toronto Maple Leafs was made even more challenging when an ice storm hit the Toronto area, leaving a reported 215,000 people without electricity. As a result the Maple Leafs' charter plane was stuck on the runway for three hours before taking off.

The delayed flight was just the latest challenge for a Toronto team hoping to enter the Christmas break with a big win in a crucial game against the New York Rangers on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

"Points are points. You've got to always keep climbing the standings," center Nazem Kadri said. "Teams below you are trying to catch you and teams above you are trying to pull away. That's just the nature of the League. We've got to make sure we keep up with the pace."

After defeating the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout Thursday and then losing in a shootout to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, the Maple Leafs earned three of a possible four points. But after going 1-1-1 during their recent three-game homestand they'll be hard-pressed for a win on the road. Since Oct. 30 Toronto has just one win in 10 road games, a 4-3 shootout victory against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 7.

They'll be looking to reverse that trend at MSG.

"We have to come in here and play our A game," Kadri said. "It would be nice getting five out of six points going into the Christmas break. That would give us a load of confidence. We've just got to be prepared. We've got to play the whole 60 minutes and hopefully come out with a win."

Jonathan Bernier will start in goal for Toronto. Goaltender James Reimer was pulled before the second period Saturday after allowing three goals on 12 shots against Detroit. Colton Orr skated Monday and could return from an injured elbow. John-Michael Liles stayed late on the ice with Reimer, meaning he likely will be out and Paul Ranger could be in.

The Maple Leafs will return to Toronto after the game for the Christmas holiday. The city likely still will be recovering from the ice storm by then. To his credit Kadri is doing his part by extending an invitation to stay at his downtown Toronto apartment for any teammates who may have lost power.

"I extended the offer. Anyone who wants to come, feel free," said Kadri, who still has yet to hear back from David Clarkson, who apparently is without electricity following the storm. "He's got a family and I've got a bachelor pad. It's a bit of a different look. It's up to him."

Here is the projected lineups for the Maple Leafs:

James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel

Mason Raymond - Peter Holland - Joffrey Lupul

Nikolai Kulemin - Jay McClement - David Clarkson

Jerry D'Amigo - Jerred Smithson - Troy Bodie

Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson

Cody Franson - Jake Gardiner

Paul Ranger - Morgan Rielly

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Mark Fraser, John-Michael Liles, Frazer McLaren

Suspended: David Clarkson

Injured: Tyler Bozak (oblique), Dave Bolland (ankle), Colton Orr (elbow), Trevor Smith (hand)

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