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Wild go for fourth straight home win vs. Maple Leafs

by Brian Hunter

MAPLE LEAFS (11-6-0) at WILD (10-4-4)


Last 10: Toronto 5-5-0; Minnesota 7-1-2

Season series: This is the second and final meeting between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild. Mason Raymond scored a pair of goals and James Reimer made 36 saves when the Maple Leafs beat the Wild 4-1 on Oct. 15 at Air Canada Centre.

Big story: Minnesota has won four of its past five, including three straight at Xcel Energy Center. In those home victories, the Wild have scored 13 goals, an encouraging sign for an offense that ended October with 16 goals in its final eight games. With Josh Harding under the weather, Niklas Backstrom will get the start against Toronto's Jonathan Bernier.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Following a fast start, Toronto has scuffled a bit, dropping five of its past nine. Perhaps it's been tough for the Maple Leafs to find a rhythm of late: This game will be their fourth in 13 days this month. They're averaging a goal per game over the first three.

The loss of center Dave Bolland, who signed as a free agent from the Chicago Blackhawks over the summer and had six goals in his first 15 games, hasn't helped. Bolland suffered a severed tendon in his ankle against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 2 and is out indefinitely.

"It's just a freak thing, it's hockey," Bolland told the Toronto Sun while visiting the team's practice facility Monday. "You go into the corners and you are wearing sharp blades. It was just a little opening in my foot that got caught.

"It's a fluke play. It's a hockey game and things are going so fast. By the time you turn around, things happen. It's the way the game goes."

Wild: Minnesota has battled key injuries to its defense lately. That led to 19-year-old Matt Dumba getting back in the lineup for a 3-2 shootout win Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. It was the 10th game for Dumba this season, meaning the first year of his entry-level contract kicks in.

"For it to be my 10th game in the position I'm in is nice, but I have to keep building from there and hopefully I get the 20th game and 30th game and so on," Dumba said in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Wild have been cautious in bringing along the seventh pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and Dumba will go back to watching from the press box Wednesday as Clayton Stoner is ready to return from a leg injury that kept him out against the Hurricanes.

Who's hot: Reimer and Bernier have combined to give the Maple Leafs a .936 team save percentage, third in the NHL behind the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins. … Jason Pominville has seven goals and three assists in his past seven games for the Wild. Justin Fontaine has five goals in his past nine games.

Injury report: Bolland and forward Tyler Bozak (lower body) are on injured reserve for Toronto. Forward Colton Orr (undisclosed) missed the past two games but practiced Monday. … Minnesota forward Mike Rupp (knee) has been assigned to Iowa of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. Defenseman Keith Ballard (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

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