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Maple Leafs' sole focus is Oilers, ending skid

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com

OILERS (14-29-9) at MAPLE LEAFS (22-27-4)

TV: CBC

TORONTO -- Do not expect Toronto Maple Leafs players to be willing participants in trying to land top 2015 NHL Draft prospect Connor McDavid.

The Maple Leafs lost their record 11th straight game Friday, 4-1 against the New Jersey Devils, and enter their game Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers 25th in the League standings.

With each passing defeat the Maple Leafs are in a better position to land the first pick in the draft; McDavid, a gifted center who plays for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, is considered the favorite to be the first pick and is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters.

"You never lose on purpose for those reasons," Maple Leafs forward David Booth. "We're sick of losing. It's no fun losing. We're professionals and we're going to come to the rink and work hard. We're going to try to win these games."

Making that goal harder will be the absence of starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who will not play because of an illness, according to the Maple Leafs.

James Reimer likely will start in Bernier's absence. Antoine Bibeau was recalled from Toronto of the American Hockey League to be Reimer's backup.

In three career games against the Oilers, Reimer is 3-0-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner said his team's sole focus is the next game, not what might happen months from now.

"We're not thinking about [the draft]," Gardiner said. "We're trying to win a hockey game. That's our job."

Gardiner said the Maple Leafs will work on trying to score the first goal of the game against the Oilers and hopefully build from there. He said the frustration level in the Toronto dressing room is growing.

"The bounces haven't been going our way lately and we obviously haven't been playing the way we would have liked," Gardiner said. "I think we've got to try and start fresh and work our tails off. We're not happy, that's for sure. It is tough losing this many games. It feels like we can't do anything about it. I've never been through anything like this in my career."

This is the 13th time the Maple Leafs will play on back-to-back nights this season; Toronto is 5-6-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.

The Oilers, who are 29th in the standings, are looking for a lot of the same things the Maple Leafs are, trying to find a way to be consistent and successful. Veteran center Derek Roy said it takes time.

"Winning is an attitude and it doesn't just come over night," Roy said. "You can't piece together a Stanley Cup team over night. I remember back in the day when there was no salary cap a lot of teams would try to buy a Stanley Cup team and that didn't work. You've got to piece together some winning attitudes. It starts in practice and you go through a lot of things before you can win the Cup."

Roy, who has four goals and nine points in 16 games since joining Edmonton from the Nashville Predators earlier in the season, said the Oilers slowly are learning what it takes to be successful.

"We've made some strides and we've beaten some good teams and then there have been games when we just haven't played our best," Roy said. "We know if we don't play 100 percent every night that we're not going to win. We have to come to the rink every night and be consistent. The best teams in the League are consistent every night."

Here are the projected lineups:

OILERS

Teddy Purcell - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Derek Roy - Matt Fraser

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Luke Gazdic - Anton Lander - Iiro Pakarinen

Jeff Petry - Andrew Ference

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Keith Aulie - Mark Fayne

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: None

Injured: Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen), Taylor Hall (leg), Benoit Pouliot (leg), Nikita Nikitin (shoulder)

MAPLE LEAFS

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Mike Santorelli - Daniel Winnik

David Booth - Nazem Kadri - Richard Panik

Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - David Clarkson

Morgan Rielly - Cody Franson

Korbinian Holzer - Stephane Robidas

Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak

James Reimer

Antoine Bibeau

Scratched: Josh Leivo, Trevor Smith, Petter Granberg

Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand), Jonathan Bernier (illness)

Status report: To make room on the roster for Bibeau, Phaneuf was placed on injured reserve Saturday, retroactive to Jan. 21. … Granberg was recalled from Toronto of the AHL on Saturday. Coach Peter Horachek said there is a possibility Granberg will dress for the game if one of the regular defenseman is unable to perform because of injury.

Who's hot: Eberle has three goals and four points in his past three games. … Bozak scored Toronto's goal in its loss to the Devils on Friday.

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