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Predators visit Leafs in quest for third straight win

by Brian Hunter
PREDATORS (7-5-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (5-8-3)

TV --

Last 10 -- Nashville 4-5-1; Toronto 1-7-2

Season Series -- This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these clubs. In their most recent matchup, Jan. 18 in Nashville, Toronto blew a three-goal lead but recovered for a 4-3 victory when Phil Kessel scored with 5:48 remaining. Jonas Gustavsson stopped 27 shots.

Big Story -- Each team is last in its respective division, though the Predators enter on a two-game winning streak and could jump right back into the top eight in the Western Conference if they extend it to three. The story isn't quite that simple for the Maple Leafs, who are winless in their previous eight games (0-6-2).

Team Scope:

Predators --
It's been seven games and counting since Nashville last won in regulation, but thanks to the shootout the Predators earned four points against the Blues and Blackhawks. Facing the defending Stanley Cup champions on Saturday, it was Cal O’Reilly scoring the only goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker while Pekka Rinne stopped all three attempts he faced in a 4-3 victory.

"He said, 'I want them to go first,' because he loves the pressure," coach Barry Trotz said of Rinne. "He was outstanding. You know you'll go to war with Pekka every night."

Maple Leafs -- There were some positives to come out of Saturday's 5-3 loss to Vancouver, such as Kessel's first-period power-play goal, which was his first point in eight games. It gave Toronto an early 2-0 lead that ultimately wouldn't hold up.

Nazem Kadri, the seventh pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, played his second NHL game and first this season, registering one shot in 18:05 of ice time.

"Without a doubt in my mind, I can play here," Kadri told the National Post. "I think I have the skills, I think I have the hockey IQ, too. Those 14 games in the American league (with the Toronto Marlies) definitely helped me out. I kind of got my feet wet with pro hockey, so to speak."

Who's Hot -- The Predators' blue line accounted for all three regulation goals against the Blackhawks, with Shane O'Brien, Shea Weber and Cody Franson all scoring. ... Mikhail Grabovski has goals in three of the Maple Leafs' last four games.

Injury Report -- Nashville forward Matthew Lombardi is sidelined with a concussion. ... Toronto forward Colby Armstrong is skating with the team as he recovers from a broken foot and surgery on his hand, while captain Dion Phaneuf remains out following surgery to repair a deep laceration to his leg.

Stat Pack -- O'Reilly leads the Predators in scoring with 12 points in 15 games; he had 11 points in 31 games last season. ... Grabovski leads the Maple Leafs with a plus-7 rating.

Puck Drop -- Maple Leafs veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere understands Toronto is taking its lumps right now, but has adopted the "everything happens for a reason" philosophy.

"Being a young team, we'll get out of this a much better team, a much more experienced team," Giguere told the Toronto Sun. "I can see it coming."
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