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Senators hope to close ground on Maple Leafs

by Brian Hunter

MAPLE LEAFS (15-11-3) at SENATORS (11-14-4)


Last 10: Toronto 4-4-2; Ottawa 3-7-0

Season series: This is the second of four games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. The Atlantic Division rivals played on Oct. 5, when Mason Raymond scored in the shootout to deliver the Maple Leafs a 5-4 victory. Raymond had a goal and two assists in regulation, as did Kyle Turris of the Senators.

Big story: Ottawa sits seven points behind of Toronto for fifth place in the Atlantic, which at the moment would be the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Although it's only the first weekend in December, the potential four-point swing this game carries could prove large at the end of the regular season.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Trevor Smith scored perhaps Toronto's biggest goal to this point and goalie Jonathan Bernier turned in a lights-out performance at just right the time when the Maple Leafs snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday with a 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars.

Smith, who's taken on a larger role of late due to injuries, deflected a Jake Gardiner shot with 41.4 seconds left in OT to reward Bernier, who stopped 48 shots. It was a nice rebound effort after he yielded 13 goals over his past three starts.

"My job is to go out there and give my team a chance to win and I thought my last couple of games I wasn't very good," Bernier said in the Toronto Sun. "I needed to come here and play the way I could play."

Senators: The opportunity for Ottawa to sweep a two-game Florida road trip went by the wayside Thursday with a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Patrick Wiercioch scored a power-play goal during a second period in which the Senators held an 18-7 advantage in shots, but that was all the offense they could manage.

Coach Paul MacLean said his team must play harder. The players realize something needs to change.

"We're just finding ways to lose," Wiercioch said in the Ottawa Citizen. "It becomes a habit. When you're winning, you don't accept getting down in games."

Who's hot: Nazem Kadri scored both of the Maple Leafs' goals in regulation Thursday after missing the previous game due to the death of his grandfather. Phil Kessel has three goals and three assists during a five-game point streak. … Wiercioch has one goal and three assists in the past five games for the Senators.

Injury report: Toronto placed forwards Tyler Bozak (oblique strain) and Colton Orr (elbow) on injured reserve Thursday, where they joined forwards Dave Bolland (ankle) and Joffrey Lupul (groin). ... The Senators report no injuries.

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