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New-look Maple Leafs play host to Devils

by Brian Hunter
DEVILS (35-17-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (17-28-11)

Last 10: New Jersey 3-6-1; Toronto 2-6-2

Season Series: Second of four meetings this season. The teams just played at Prudential Center last Friday and will be right back there this Friday. In the season's first matchup, the Maple Leafs stormed back from a 4-2 deficit with a pair of goals late in regulation, but the Devils prevailed 5-4 in overtime on a Travis Zajac power-play goal. Zajac also had three assists and Zach Parise finished with four points as well, on two goals and two assists.

Big Story: Sunday was a day of wheelin' and dealin' for the underachieving Leafs, who made a pair of significant trades. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was acquired from Anaheim for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake, and he will take over the No. 1 goaltending duties, coach Ron Wilson said. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf was the centerpiece of a seven-player mega-deal with Calgary, in which Toronto sent four players and also received Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie in return.

Team Scope:

Devils: For a team built around its defense and goaltending that is known for clamping down and holding onto leads late in games, these are troubling times for New Jersey. In back-to-back games, the Devils have crumbled late. They survived against the Leafs to get two points, but Sunday against the Kings they wound up with none. A 2-1 lead turned into a 3-2 loss when Wayne Simmonds and Drew Doughty beat Martin Brodeur in the final two minutes of regulation. It was the first time all season they lost a game they led after two periods.

"I don't know if we're just sitting back too much or what the problem is," said defenseman Andy Greene, whose tripping penalty led to Doughty's power-play goal with 27.3 seconds left. "But we have to be mentally ready. You know they're going to come with everything there in the last four or five minutes, and you have to be ready for it."

Maple Leafs:
Falling short against New Jersey and blowing a three-goal lead in a 5-3 loss to Vancouver on consecutive nights was apparently the last straw for Toronto GM Brian Burke. Now the new-look Leafs will see what they can make of the rest of their season. Giguere, the Conn Smythe winner in 2003 when the Ducks lost in seven games to the Devils in the Stanley Cup Final, figures to start Tuesday. Phaneuf and Sjostrom should also be in the lineup.

"We've got to create tension where there's enough talent on the roster and a high enough battle level that the coach has decisions to make,'' Burke said Sunday. "Right now (Wilson) doesn't have decisions to make. It's these guys who got to go on the ice. We're trying to change that. Today is an important part of changing that.

"We're still open for business, we're not done,'' he added.

Who's Hot:
Zajac added a goal against the Kings and has two goals and six assists in his last five games for the Devils. Parise has four goals and four assists during that span. Since being placed on their line, forward Dainius Zubrus has a goal and three assists in two games.

Phil Kessel scored twice against the Devils after having only two goals in his previous 21 games for the Leafs. Alexei Ponikarovsky has three straight multi-point games, totaling a goal and five assists.

Injury Report:
New Jersey has defensemen Paul Martin (arm) and forwards David Clarkson (leg) and Patrik Elias (concussion) on injured reserve. … Toronto has forward Mikhail Grabovski (wrist) and defensemen Mike Van Ryn (knee) and Mike Komisarek (shoulder) on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
After surpassing Terry Sawchuk for career shutouts earlier this season, Brodeur joined him Sunday as the only goalies ever to start 15 games in consecutive months. Sawchuk accomplished the feat in December and January of 1954-55 and Brodeur matched him 55 years later in those same months.
Puck Drop:
Phaneuf scored a career-high 20 goals as a rookie and 60 points just two seasons ago. He has slipped to 10 goals and 22 points so far this season, but now gets a fresh start in Toronto. He also was able to claim his old No. 3, with Garnet Exelby kindly switching to No. 7, which belonged to ex-Leaf Ian White.

"We'll have to talk about that," Phaneuf said, wearing a big grin. "I may have to get him something."

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