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Struggling Leafs pay rare visit to Nashville

by Adam Kimelman

MAPLE LEAFS (16-24-9) at PREDATORS (29-16-3)

Last 10 -- Toronto 3-7-0; Nashville 7-3-0

Season series -- This is the only meeting between the teams this season. In their only game last season, Pekka Rinne made 17 saves in a 2-0 Predators win in Toronto. Radek Bonk and David Legwand scored for Nashville.

Big story -- This game pits two teams going in opposite directions. The Predators come home after a three-game sweep in Western Canada that lifted them to fourth place in the Western Conference, while the Leafs have dropped four of their last five, and at 14th in the Eastern Conference, they're almost as close to the bottom of the conference then they are to 13th.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs -- One night after shutting out the red-hot Flyers, the Leafs were steamrolled by Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in Washington on Friday. Ovechkin beat Vesa Toskala just 49 seconds into the game, and went on to have a career-high 4 assists.

"Ovechkin makes things happen," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "If you play the game with a dear-in-the-headlights mode, you are probably going to get run over like a dear would."

Predators -- Consistency has been a hallmark of the franchise since it came into existence, and that includes behind the bench. GM David Poile informed coach Barry Trotz and his staff the club would be picking up the option on their contracts for next season, and last week told them another option year was added for 2011-12.

"It was a nice surprise when (Poile) came to us,'' Trotz told The Tennessean. "We certainly appreciated it, but we still have a long way to go. We have a good group and a positive group."

Trotz is the only coach in the 11-season history of the franchise; assistant coach Brent Peterson has been with Trotz for 10 seasons, while fellow assistant Peter Horachek has been with the team since 2003. Goaltending coach Mitch Korn has been with the club since its inception, as has video coach Robert Bouchard.

Who's hot -- Rookie center Tyler Bozak obviously has earned the trust of the coaching staff, as he played a career-high 19:22 against the Caps despite not scoring for the first time in four NHL games. … Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist has 5 goals and 7 points in his last five games, and has at least a point in 13 of his last 16 games.

Injury report -- The Predators expect to have captain Jason Arnott in the lineup. He missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, but with the club returning Cal O'Reilly to Milwaukee (AHL), that means he must be healthy enough to play. .. Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek is expected to miss another week with an upper-body injury.

Stat pack -- This will be the first time the Leafs have visited Nashville in almost three years. The last time these teams played at the Sommet Center was Feb. 8, 2007, a 4-2 Predators victory. Since the 2005-06 season, this will be just the fourth time these teams have played.

Puck drop -- Trotz has a good but difficult decision to make. He told The Tennessean that Pekka Rinne would start in goal, but that was before Dan Ellis stopped all 22 shots he faced Friday in Calgary. Rinne has won four of his last five decisions, while Ellis has been almost as good. It's not easy for a coach to sit a goalie after a shutout, but Trotz has kept a consistent rotation in net all season, and it's worked, so why change now?

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