WILD (6-10-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (3-7-5)
Minnesota 5-5-0; Toronto 3-3-4
This is the only meeting between these teams in 2009-10. Last year, Minnesota used a four-goal second period en route to a 6-1 home win against the Maple Leafs. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
scored twice, and Niklas Backstrom
made 27 saves for the victory.
The start of the Phil Kessel
era and points in seven straight games have supplied at least some optimism in cynical Toronto, and a visit from the road-woeful Wild (1-8-0) should have the Air Canada Centre faithful expecting their second home win of the season.
This is the first game in a four-game homestand for Minnesota. On Saturday, the Wild defeated Dallas 3-2.
"It was our best performance. Everybody was going," coach Todd Richards told the Star Tribune.
Said winger Chuck Kobasew: "It's just a matter of getting off to a good start, about putting 60 minutes together with consistency. We have spurts in games where we look great. We just can't let up."
If only free agent acquisition Martin Havlat, last season’s leading scorer on Chicago, can get on track. He has only 1 goal and 6 assists in 14 games.
"It's not the start I wanted, or we wanted as a team. We win together and lose together," Havlat said. "But individually, this is probably the worst start I ever had, so it can only get better. I just have to keep working and sooner or later it'll start coming."
Toronto is wrapping up a two-game homestand that began with an inspiring 5-1 victory against Detroit in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Saturday. It was the Leafs' first win at home since April 11.
"(Saturday) must be our best game so far," rookie goaltender Jonas Gustavsson
said. "The 'D' helped me a lot and the forwards scored some goals. Perfect."
After recording only one point in its first eight games (0-7-1), Toronto has posted 10 points in the last seven contests. (3-0-4).
Saturday’s win included the first goal of the season for Kessel, and he is 1-2-3 in his first three games.
"He's got so much speed it’s fun to play with him," linemate Jason Blake told the Globe and Mail.
For the Wild, Kyle Brodziak
has 3 goals and an assist in his last three games, and Brent Burns has 2 assists in his last three games. For the Maple Leafs, Mikhail Grabovski
has 5 assists in his last four games, Lee Stempniak has 3 goals and 5 assists in his last seven games, Jason Blake has a goal and 6 assists in his last six games, Tomas Kaberle has 2 goals and 11 assists in his last seven games, and Ian White has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last five games.
For the Maple Leafs, defenseman Mike Van Ryn (knee) is out for the season. For the Wild, center Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) and defenseman Kim Johnsson (upper-body) are on injured reserve.
Kessel became the 12th player to make his Leafs debut this season. The other 11 are Tyler Bozak
, Joey MacDonald, Jonas Gustavsson
, Colton Orr
, Wayne Primeau, Jay Rosehill
, Viktor Stalberg, Rickard Wallin, Francois Beauchemin, Garnet Exelby and Mike Komisarek
. … Tomas Kaberle's 18 points after the first 15 games of the season is the best start of his 11-year career.
"Everybody on the team wants to win and wants to be successful,'' Gustavsson said. "We want the fans to be happy. When we started playing better, everybody's going to be happy. If we can just continue like this it's going to be a fun season.''