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Maple Leafs, Senators look to close in on playoffs

by Dan Rosen

MAPLE LEAFS (24-15-5) at SENATORS (24-14-6)


Last 10: Toronto 6-3-1; Ottawa 5-5-0

Season series: This is the fifth and final edition of the Battle of Ontario for the 2012-13 season. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won three of the first four, including the past two. They beat the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place, 4-0, on March 30.

Big story: The Maple Leafs will know by puck drop if they will have a chance to clinch their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2004 on Saturday night. It hinges on what the Winnipeg Jets do against the New York Islanders. If the Jets lose in regulation to the New York Islanders (3 p.m. ET), the Leafs will be able to clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Senators.

Ottawa can't clinch with a win, but it can move closer to securing a spot in the playoffs. It's also possible the Senators get Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson back in the lineup soon. He had a full practice Friday.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: The Leafs have lost two in a row this week after a 9-1-4 stretch that dates back to March 16. They've been ugly losses, too.

The Washington Capitals beat Toronto, 5-1, on Tuesday. The New York Islanders topped the Leafs, 5-3, on Thursday.

"We're going to fix this," forward Joffrey Lupul said. "We're going to watch a lot of video [Friday] and we'll get back to basics and fix it."

Part of the Leafs' problem is Nazem Kadri, their second-leading scorer, has two assists in the past eight games. Mikhail Grabovski has three points in the past 12 games.

Senators: Earlier this month the skeptics were out, wondering if the Senators had run out of gas, if their remarkable run despite not having Jason Spezza (back) and Karlsson (Achilles) was coming to a premature end.

Not so fast.

Ottawa has won four in a row and has allowed only four goals in the process. The Senators even tamed the red-hot Capitals on Thursday with a 3-1 win.

Washington had won eight in a row coming into that game. Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet.

And now comes the news that Karlsson's return could be on the horizon. He had a full practice on Friday and by the looks of it seemed like himself.

"He looks like Erik Karlsson," coach Paul MacLean said. "It's good for the team. His ability was evident."

Karlsson hasn't played since Feb. 13.

Who's hot: Despite the loss to the Islanders, Phil Kessel had assists on all three Toronto goals and has six goals and six assists over the past seven games. … Ottawa center Kyle Turris scored twice against the Capitals. Milan Michalek has points in all three games he's played since returning from injury.

Injury report: Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury. … Ottawa has been playing without both Spezza and Karlsson as well as Mike Hoffman (collarbone).

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