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Maple Leafs try to extend point streak to five vs. Kings

by Mike Brophy

KINGS (20-9-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (10-13-7)


TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to make it five games in a row with points when they host the Los Angeles Kings at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

The Maple Leafs are 2-0-2 in their past four games; two straight wins were followed by two overtime losses, most recently a 5-4 defeat against the San Jose Sharks at home on Thursday.

"I like that we have points in our last four games but I didn't like our last game," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "When you don't start on time, you don't compete hard enough and you don't deserve the points. Did we play hard as the game went on? For sure."

The Maple Leafs fell behind 2-0 in the first period against the Sharks, scored four in a row to take the lead, but then allowed the game's final three goals.

Babcock said for the Maple Leafs to succeed against the Kings, his players must be prepared to battle from the start of the game.

"What I like about watching the Kings is they are organized and they have good players that play hard," Babcock said. "It takes you about six minutes to do the pre-scout because you see the same things over and over again. Good teams don't trick you; they just beat you. That's what we’re trying to become, a team that gets prepared and does it right every night. Period."

Toronto defenseman Roman Polak has four assists in his past four games, but said the emphasis will be on playing sound defense against the Kings.

"They are big so you have to be ready," Polak said. "They skate a lot so you can't give them space. It's going to be a big battle and we have to be ready for it. It is fun when you play a team like this because you know there are going to be plenty of battles in the corners."

The Kings, who are 7-1-2 in their past 10, are coming off a 3-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They were outshot 45-20 but got stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick.

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, the Kings have transformed themselves back into a Stanley Cup contender.

The Kings have won the Cup twice since the 2011-12 season but a number of players on the roster were part of six straight seasons out of the postseason. So they can appreciate the growing pains the Maple Leafs are going through.

"Fortunately there is a big chunk of our group that was a bad team together and you learn a lot when you are a bad team that becomes a good team," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "I think that helps us in these types of situations."

Defenseman Drew Doughty said the Maple Leafs will be a tough opponent.

"You can't look at teams in the standings and come in here thinking the game is going to be given to you," Doughty said. "We have made that mistake before. The Leafs have been pretty good lately. They are a good team and we know that. We can't take it easy on them."

Here are the projected lineups:


Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Marian Gaborik

Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Michael Mersch - Trevor Lewis - Dustin Brown

Andy Andreoff - Nick Shore - Jordan Nolan

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez

Christian Ehrhoff - Jamie McBain

Jonathan Quick

Jhonas Enroth

Injured: Dwight King (lower body), Kyle Clifford (upper body), Matt Greene (upper body)

Scratched: Derek Forbort, Jordan Weal


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Leo Komarov

Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - PA Parenteau

Daniel Winnik - Peter Holland - Joffrey Lupul

Shawn Matthias - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes

Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Martin Marincin - Roman Polak

Jonathan Bernier

Antoine Bibeau

Injured: Stephane Robidas (groin), James Reimer (lower body), Nick Spaling (upper body), Garret Sparks (lower body)

Scratched: Frank Corrado

Status report: The Kings reformed "That '70s Line," featuring Carter, Pearson and Toffoli, at practice Friday. … Lewis was activated from Injured Reserve and will play for the first time since Dec. 1. ... Bernier will make his second start since being recalled from Toronto of the American Hockey League following a two-week conditioning stint. … Bibeau was recalled from the AHL to replace Sparks. … Spaling was injured Thursday against the Sharks and will not return until after Christmas. … Grabner, who scored against the Sharks, will take a more offensive role against the Kings on a line with Kadri and Parenteau. … Babcock said Reimer feels well enough to play, but the Maple Leafs want to be sure he is 100 percent healthy before he returns to the lineup. He has missed the past four games.

Who's hot: van Riemsdyk has goals in three straight games. … Bozak has one goal and four assists during a four-game point streak. … Kopitar has points in four straight games.

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