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Oilers look for 3 in a row as they visit Leafs

by John Kreiser /

OILERS (8-12-4) at MAPLE LEAFS (8-11-4)

TV -- SNET-Edmonton, Leafs TV

Last 10 -- Edmonton 4-4-2; Toronto 3-6-1

Season series -- It's the first of two meetings in 12 days between the Oilers and Leafs. They split a pair last season, with each team winning at home.

Big story -- The teams that finished 30th (Edmonton) and 29th (Toronto) last season are down near the bottom of the NHL standings again -- but they're coming into this game in vastly different emotional states. The Oilers headed to Toronto after a stirring 4-3 overtime win at Montreal on Wednesday and will be playing for the third time in four nights as they try to sweep a swing through Eastern Canada. Toronto turned a two-goal third-period lead into a 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday and has dropped three in a row.

Team Scope:

Edmonton -- The Oilers looked to be on their way to a loss in Montreal on Wednesday. They trailed 3-1 midway through the third period, but Ales Hemsky scored midway through the period and Sam Gagner's shorthanded goal forced OT. Dustin Penner then won it by capitalizing on a turnover and scoring on a breakaway at 2:28 of the extra period.

Coach Tom Renney was delighted with the maturity his young team showed.

"The bottom line is that we really gutted it out here, when we could have just gone south and said that's good enough," Renney said. "These guys clearly understand that's not good enough anymore. That's the beauty of a team growing up before your eyes."

Maple Leafs -- The Leafs have had a day to stew about Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay at the Air Canada Centre -- a game they led 3-1 in the third period and 3-2 with 10 seconds left in regulation. Mistakes and missed assignments turned what would have been a solid victory into a nightmarish loss -- and the single point they went home with was no consolation.

"We had some missed assignments, a couple of mental mistakes from veteran players that you wouldn't expect," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

Who's hot -- Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin has a pair of two-goal performances in his last four games.

Injury report -- Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin both returned from going injuries on Wednesday, with Khabibulin scheduled to start in goal against the Leafs. … Toronto will get goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere back from a groin injury, though the plan for Thursday is to have him back up Jonas Gustavsson. However, the Leafs will be without forward Mike Brown for at least four weeks after he broke a finger in the loss to Tampa Bay.

Stat pack -- The Oilers' win at Montreal on Wednesday was their first since Nov. 4, 2003. … Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin had three minor penalties on Tuesday -- one more than he had taken all season up to that point.

Puck drop -- Look for lots of young, speedy players on both teams -- the Leafs' average age of 26.0 is the youngest in the NHL, while the Oilers average 26.9.

"It will be a fast game and I think we're prepared for that," Wilson told the Toronto Sun. "We have to make smart plays and get to the front of the net."

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