THRASHERS (18-11-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (12-16-4)
TV: SNET-O (HD)
Atlanta 6-2-2; Toronto 4-5-1
First of four meetings this season. The teams split their matchups on the 2009-10 schedule, with Mikhail Grabovski
scoring 39 seconds into overtime to give Toronto a 2-1 win on March 25 in Atlanta, the only game to go beyond regulation. Ondrej Pavelec went 2-1-1 in net for the Thrashers while Jonas Gustavsson
split a pair of decisions for the Maple Leafs.
Atlanta didn't even have 24 hours to enjoy its stay in first place between the time the Thrashers completed their 7-1 rout of the Devils on Saturday night and when the Capitals finally snapped their losing streak at eight games by edging the Senators 3-2 on Sunday. But they'll get a chance to move back atop the Southeast Division standings with a win Monday, as Washington sits idle.
Fourth-liners are supposed to deliver hits, get into scraps and create energy for their teams -- not record hat tricks. Eric Boulton apparently never received that memo, however, as the Atlanta tough guy lit the lamp three times Saturday as the Thrashers demolished the Devils. His linemate, Chris Thorburn, added a goal and a pair of assists to the cause.
"Everyone is happy for Boults here," defenseman Zach Bogosian said of the 10-year veteran, who has 25 career goals and 1,082 penalty minutes. "He sticks up for everyone and he does a lot of big things that don't go unnoticed by his teammates. Seeing him score tonight was a lot of fun. He deserves it and we're all happy for him."
Back at the Air Canada Centre for five of the next seven games, Toronto will try to get some positive momentum established after a disappointing end to a three-game trip through western Canada. The Maple Leafs lost goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to a recurring groin injury in their loss to the Flames on Thursday and while Gustavsson held them in Saturday's game against the Canucks most of the way, they still suffered a 4-1 defeat.
"I thought we played well and probably didn't get enough shots through and not enough traffic," coach Ron Wilson said.
"At the end of the day only one line scored again. The guys have got to do what they're paid to do, which is score some goals."
Evander Kane has consecutive games with a goal and an assist for the Thrashers. Anthony Stewart also has back-to-back multi-point efforts. Pavelec is 10-2-1 in his last 13 games and is second in the NHL in goals-against average (1.76) and save percentage (.944). … Grabovski has goals in each of the last three games for the Maple Leafs.
Giguere is out indefinitely for Toronto, which also has forward Mike Brown
on injured reserve with a broken finger.
Boulton is plus-10 for the Thrashers this season and has been even or plus in all 28 games he's played. … Phil Kessel
had a six-game points streak against Atlanta snapped in the most recent meeting between these teams.
With only one playoff appearance in the franchise's history, challenging for a top seed in the Eastern Conference is heady territory for Atlanta.
"We can't scoreboard watch too much, but we'd be lying if we said we all didn't know we are in first place," Boulton told the Atlanta Journal Constitution after Saturday's win.
First-year Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay explained in the paper the mentality he's sought to instill in the team.
"It's about expecting to win," Ramsay said. "It's a long season but our players now go into games expecting to win. They expect to play well. They are pushing each other to participate."