Maple Leafs-Senators Preview
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (24-19-3) at Ottawa Senators (31-10-4).
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Ottawa Senators let a two-goal lead slip away and lost a shootout in their last game.
They hope to take out any lingering frustration on their favorite punching bag this season when they play the first of two consecutive home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Senators are 4-0 this season against Toronto - the only other team they have that many wins against is the New York Islanders - and handed the Maple Leafs their worst loss of the season, 8-0 on Oct. 29. The most recent meeting wasn't much better for Toronto, an 8-2 defeat at Ottawa on Dec. 17.
These Northeast Division rivals will meet again on the Senators' home ice on Monday.
"We've never seen this before," Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said. "The league is trying to create more excitement, not that it was needed with our games against Toronto."
The Maple Leafs go into this matchup with a season-high four straight losses, falling 15 points behind the division-leading Senators.
A defeat in this contest would saddle Toronto with its longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row from Jan. 3-20, 1997.
"We've got to simplify our game and get back on track," Leafs captain Mats Sundin said.
Despite being only two points behind Carolina for the league's best record, the Senators are just 4-4-1 in the new year. They had a disappointing start to their five-game homestand on Thursday, blowing an early two-goal lead and failing to score in a shootout to lose 4-3 to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
"We have to be ready to work. If we played like we did last night, we'll be in trouble," Ottawa forward Chris Neil said Friday. "(The Leafs) have a few guys out right now, but they're a hard-working group. If we don't match their intensity, we'll be in trouble."
Toronto, though, hasn't looked too tough to beat lately.
The Maple Leafs gave the puck away nine times in a 5-3 road loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.
"When we have to get tough, we're not doing a good enough job," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said.
Quinn's club has given up 18 goals, including eight on the power play, during the four-game skid.
STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 51 points, 3rd place, 15 PB, Northeast Division. Senators - 66 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Darcy Tucker, 18 goals; Bryan McCabe, 34 assists and 49 points; Jason Allison, 57 PIM. Senators - Dany Heatley, 30 goals; Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, 35 assists; Alfredsson, 62 points; Zdeno Chara, 104 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 19): Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.3 percent (60 for 295), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.6 percent (236 for 293), 21st. Senators - Power play: 21.5 percent (61 for 284), 3rd. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (247 for 292), 6th.
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (18-15-2, 0 SO, 3.25 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (6-4-1, 1, 2.57). Senators - Dominik Hasek (23-7-3, 3, 2.06); Ray Emery (8-3-1, 1, 3.07).
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 4-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 17, 2005; Senators, 8-2. At Ottawa, eight players scored for the Senators, who broke a 1-1 tie with three unanswered second-period goals and four more in the final period.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 9-11-2 on the road; Senators - 17-4-1 at home.