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Slumping Leafs visit struggling Senators

by John Kreiser /
MAPLE LEAFS (13-19-4) at SENATORS (16-18-5)

TV -- CBC (HD)

Last 10
-- Toronto 3-7-0, Ottawa 4-3-3

Season series -- The Ontario rivals are squaring off for the fourth time this season. Toronto won 5-1 at home on Oct. 9, but the Senators responded with a 3-2 win at Toronto on Nov. 2 and a 3-0 victory at home on Nov. 27

Big story -- Both teams are watching their playoff hopes sink slowly in the East. Each is coming off a loss to Columbus -- the Leafs fell 3-2 at home on Thursday, the Senators were beaten 4-3 in OT on Friday. The Senators start the new year seven points behind eighth-place Montreal, while the Leafs are seven points in back of Ottawa (though they have three games in hand).

Team Scope

Maple Leafs
-- The Leafs enter 2011 looking at the likelihood of a sixth consecutive non-playoff season, and the defense has been a prime cause of their problems. The Leafs' defensive problems were obvious in the loss to Columbus -- a game in which they were outshot 22-10 after the first period.

"Tonight our 'D' had a tough night, handling pucks, misreading rushes and some pretty bad giveaways," coach Ron Wilson said. "As the game went on, it kept getting harder and harder because we weren't moving pucks or getting back quickly enough and partners not supporting one another."

Senators -- Ottawa didn't get a win at Columbus on Friday, but the Senators did battle back to get a point, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to force overtime before losing 4-3. Daniel Alfredsson tied the game with 1:11 remaining.

"We showed a lot of character," coach Cory Clouston said. "Through (half of) the second period, we had seven or eights shots to their none. We worked hard against a good team that skated well. We're happy with the point, but we're disappointed with the loss."

Who's hot -- Toronto should get a boost with the return of center Mikhail Grabovski, who's tied for second on the Leafs with 13 goals and second with 27 points. He has 5 goals and an assist during a six-game point streak, but missed Thursday's game to be with his girlfriend, who was giving birth to the couple's first child.

Injury report -- Ottawa is dealing with life without Jason Spezza -- the Sens' No. 1 center is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Goaltender Pascal Leclaire for at least another week with a lower-body injury. … The Leafs are still without starting goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere (lower body).

Stat pack -- Alfredsson has 29 goals and 65 points in 69 lifetime games against Toronto, but has not scored against the Leafs in their last seven meetings.

Puck drop -- Toronto GM Brian Burke says coach Ron Wilson's job is safe, and Wilson certainly didn't act like someone worrying about his job on Friday. He didn't like what he saw after about 20 minutes of practice and started skating them hard, then had them hit each other during 5-on-5 drills.

"You practice like you play," center John Mitchell told the Toronto Star. "We were supposed to do 5-on-5 drills where we're supposed to lay the body and take the man and go through our guys. We weren't doing that.

"That's why he skated us, to get the message through our heads that if you're not going to do it in practice, you're definitely not going to do it in a game."

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