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Maple Leafs-Panthers Preview @NHLdotcom
Maple Leafs-Panthers Preview

GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (24-22-4) at Florida Panthers (20-24-8).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are desperate for a win.

The Maple Leafs look to avoid their ninth straight loss when they visit the Florida Panthers to start a three-game road trip.

Toronto's losing streak reached eight games with a 4-3 overtime setback Saturday to the Montreal Canadiens.

"We got a point tonight but we needed two and we know that," said Ken Klee, who tied the game 3-3 late in the third period. "Hopefully we're going to start to go in the right direction. We need to."

It was the Leafs' first eight-game skid since Feb. 16-March 3, 1996.

"It's a really tough loss, but fortunately we got one point," said backup goaltender Mikael Tellqvist, who started in place of the struggling Ed Belfour and gave up the winning goal to Saku Koivu 64 seconds into overtime.

Belfour has lost six straight games after winning a season-high six consecutive games.

Belfour's career-worst losing streak is seven games set from April 2-17, 1995 when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 16-year veteran has had success against the Panthers, though, going 13-3-2 all-time against Florida with a 1.97 goals-against average, three shutouts and .931 save percentage.

The current skid has also nearly knocked the Leafs from the playoff race. Toronto begins play tied with Montreal and the Atlanta Thrashers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The longest losing streak in franchise history is 10 games from Jan. 15-Feb. 8, 1967 - the last time Toronto won the Stanley Cup.

The Leafs may have high-scoring defenseman Bryan McCabe back in the lineup after missing eight games with a groin injury.

The Panthers have enjoyed a recent resurgence at the BankAtlantic Center, winning seven of their last 10 there. Roberto Luongo made 22 saves for his 100th NHL victory in Florida's 4-0 shutout Friday over the New Jersey Devils.

"It (100th win) is nice to get but the two points are much more encouraging," said Luongo, who recorded his third shutout of the season. "It's a huge game for us."

Luongo posted his first shutout since notching back-to-back blankings in the first two games of the season. He is 2-4-2 at home against Toronto in his career.

Olli Jokinen scored for the Panthers, giving him three goals and three assists during a three-game points streak. Jokinen is scoreless in two games this season against Florida and has just four goals and four assists in 23 career games versus the Leafs.

STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 52 points, 3rd place (tied), 20 PB, Northeast Division. Panthers - 48 points, 4th place, 28 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Darcy Tucker, 19 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 35 assists; McCabe, 49 points; Klee, 62 PIM. Panthers - Jokinen, 24 goals, 31 assists and 55 points; Chris Gratton, 71 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.1 percent (64 for 318), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (256 for 318), 22nd. Panthers - Power play: 14.7 percent (39 for 265), 27th. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (275 for 333), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (18-17-2, 0 SO, 3.45 GAA); Tellqvist (6-5-2, 1, 2.79). Panthers - Luongo (20-20-8, 3, 2.95); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 0, 3.09).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 28; Maple Leafs 2-1. At Sunrise, Fla., McCabe scored the winning goal while Belfour made 34 saves for his 447th career win, tying him with Terry Sawchuk for second place on the all-time list.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 9-13-2 on the road; Panthers - 14-6-4 at home.

Associated Press
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