Maple Leafs-Panthers Preview
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (13-8-3) at Florida Panthers (7-13-4).
TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.
Looking to move up in the Northeast Division, the Toronto Maple Leafs begin a stretch of four games in six nights when they meet the slumping Florida Panthers at the Bank Atlantic Center.
The Maple Leafs begin play three points behind the second-place Montreal Canadiens and nine in back of the division-leading Ottawa Senators.
"There's no doubt this week is going to be important for us," Toronto captain Mats Sundin said. "It's going to be a big week for us. If we can keep playing the way we did (last week), we'll have a good chance to get some more points, for sure. We can make some progress in the standings."
Toronto, though, has only one win in its last five visits to South Florida (1-2-2).
Goaltender Ed Belfour may have a chance to make history Monday. His next win will be the 447th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk for second place on the all-time list.
Belfour turned aside 31 shots in 2-1 victory over the Panthers on Oct. 31. He is 12-3-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and two career shutouts against Florida.
The Maple Leafs are coming off a 4-3 overtime win Saturday over visiting Montreal. Sundin scored a power-play goal 89 seconds into overtime for the Leafs, who had lost two straight after winning four in a row.
"The tradition makes for a great atmosphere. You have both teams fan in the building. These games are a lot of fun to play," Belfour said.
Florida lost 7-4 to Atlanta on Saturday despite scoring four goals in the second period to forge a 4-4 tie.
However, Roberto Luongo, who replaced Jamie McLennan, gave up three goals in the third period.
"I thought we showed a lot of tenacity coming back in the second period," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "Fatigue may have been a factor for our poor third period."
The Panthers have given up four or more goals in a game 12 times while scoring that many just six times.
Florida also will try to post consecutive home wins for the first time in five weeks. The Panthers snapped a 12-game losing streak Friday with a 6-3 victory over Pittsburgh.
The Panthers have not won two straight at home since Oct. 15 and 20, when they beat Buffalo and Washington.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 27): Maple Leafs - 29 points, 3rd place (tied), 7 PB, Northeast Division. Panthers - 18 points, 4th place (tied), 13 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Jeff O'Neill, 11 goals; Bryan McCabe, 23 assists and 32 points; Wade Belak, 38 PIM. Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 10 goals, 12 assists and 22 points; Branislav Mezei, 37 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 27): Maple Leafs - Power play: 23.6 percent (36 for 152), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (120 for 147), 18th. Panthers - Power play: 12.5 percent (17 for 135), 28th. Penalty killing: 79.7 percent (122 for 153), 25th.
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (11-6-2, 0 SO, 3.35 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (2-2-1, 2.83). Panthers - Luongo (7-11-4, 2, 3.20); McLennan (0-2-0, 2.91).
SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Oct. 31; Maple Leafs, 2-1. At Toronto, Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the game-winner with 10:17 to play. Former Leaf Gary Roberts had the goal for Florida.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 4-4-2 on the road; Panthers - 5-4-1 at home.