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Senators battle Leafs for positioning in East

by Brian Hunter

MAPLE LEAFS (11-7-0) at SENATORS (10-6-2)


Last 10: Toronto 7-3-0; Ottawa 5-4-1

Season series: Second of five meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Ben Scrivens made 34 saves for his first NHL shutout and the Maple Leafs received goals from Frazer McLaren, Tyler Bozak and John-Michael Liles in a 3-0 win over the Senators on Feb. 16.

Big story: It would be fair to say both teams are playing above expectations at the moment, challenging Montreal not only for the division lead but the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is poised to end the League's longest playoff drought despite playing recent weeks without goalie James Reimer and forward Joffrey Lupul, while Ottawa has withstood serious injuries to defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Jason Spezza. Goalie Craig Anderson, an early candidate for the Vezina Trophy, also left Thursday's game against the New York Rangers with a sprained right ankle.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: It shouldn't be too long before Reimer is ready to dress again, but Scrivens continues to make his case for increased playing time with his strong play in net. Scrivens had back-to-back shutouts before getting pulled from a start against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but he rebounded in style Thursday as Toronto topped Buffalo 3-1 at Air Canada Centre. Scrivens made 31 saves and was backed by two more goals from James van Riemsdyk, who has 11 this season.

"I think I'm getting some good bounces right now and playing in some good situations with a lot of great players," said van Riemsdyk, who has already matched his output in 43 games with the Flyers last season. He scored a career-best 21 goals during the 2010-11 campaign.

Senators: The hockey gods seem to be testing Ottawa to see just how much it can handle, but every time they deliver another blow the Senators manage to keep their footing. Anderson had stopped all 21 shots Thursday and was chasing his third shutout of the season when the Rangers' Chris Kreider lost an edge near the Ottawa net and took Anderson out, ending his night. New York promptly scored a pair of goals against Ben Bishop in relief, but Mika Zibanejad evened the score and the Senators went on to a 3-2 shootout win as Kaspars Daugavins scored in the seventh round. Bishop stopped six of seven attempts by the Rangers.

"You want to know if he's OK at first, but once the puck drops you've got to do your job," said Bishop, who also beat New Jersey in a shootout earlier in the week. "It's one of those things that as cold as you can be once the puck drops, you're in the game."

Who's hot: Van Riemsdyk has three goals and two assists during a four-game points streak for the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel has a goal and three assists during a three-game points streak. Defensemen Dion Phaneuf (1-1-2) and Cody Franson (0-2-2) had multi-point efforts Thursday. … Jakob Silfverberg scored his first career shorthanded goal for the Senators on Thursday and had the shootout winner against the Devils three days earlier. He and Daniel Alfredsson each have a goal and two assists during their current three-game points streaks.

Injury report: Lupul (forearm), Reimer (knee) and forward Matt Frattin (knee) are on injured reserve for Toronto, while forward Colton Orr (lower body) is day-to-day. … Anderson's injury is not considered severe and he's day-to-day for Ottawa. Karlsson (Achilles), Spezza (back), defenseman Jared Cowen (hip) and forwards Guillaume Latendresse (whiplash), Peter Regin (upper body) are on injured reserve. Forward Milan Michalek (knee) is also out indefinitely.

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