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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 16th (All times Eastern)
Winnipeg Jets (14-11-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-1), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Winnipeg Jets Saturday in a clash between playoff-hopeful teams currently headed in opposite directions.
The Jets enter Saturday's battle at Air Canada Centre on a roll, having won four of five and recording a point in all five (4-0-1) of those contests. After opening the season with a poor 5-8-1 mark, Winnipeg has righted itself and posted a 9-3-1 record over the last 13 games.
Toronto, meanwhile, has lost its last four games (0-3-1) to drop its season record to 15-12-1. The four-game slide is the longest for the Maple Leafs since going 0-4-1 from March 6-13 last season en route to missing the postseason for a club record seventh straight spring.
The Jets and Leafs are separated by just one point in the East standings. Toronto is currently in seventh place with 31 points and the Jets are holding onto the conference's final postseason spot.
The Leafs hope the likely return of forward Joffrey Lupul on Saturday can help them get back on track. Lupul suffered a fractured forearm three games into the season and hasn't played since Jan. 23. However, he has been cleared for contact and is expected to play on Saturday.
"There's obviously going to be a little bit of rust and things like that," said Lupul. "But I'm definitely looking to go in and make an impact. Hopefully the feeling out period is not too long. I don't expect it to be."
Lupul had a career-best 67 points for Toronto in 2011-12, recording 25 goals and 42 assists over just 66 games.
One of Toronto's losses during its recent slide came Tuesday night in Winnipeg, as the Jets used two goals from Blake Wheeler to record the 5-2 victory at MTS Centre.
It was Winnipeg's third win in the last five meetings against the Maple Leafs, but Toronto has taken the last three encounters on its home ice.
The Jets followed up Tuesday's win over the Leafs with Thursday's 3-1 home victory against the New York Rangers. Antti Miettinen scored the lead goal in the second period and Andrew Ladd netted a late insurance tally to help Winnipeg skate past the Blueshirts.
Nik Antropov lit the lamp in the first period and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28- of-29 shots for the Jets.
"I think we're getting some contributions from a lot of the players and I think a lot of the players are doing the right thing," said Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel.
The win improved Winnipeg to 6-6-0 at home and the Noel's club is 8-5-2 as the guest.
Toronto also played on Thursday, but was dealt a 3-1 setback by the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. The Leafs led 1-0 after 40 minutes before Pascal Dupuis scored a pair of late goals to lift Pittsburgh to the win at Air Canada Centre. Craig Adams also tallied for Pittsburgh with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Tyler Bozak picked up the lone score for the Maple Leafs, while Ben Scrivens made 25 saves in defeat.
"Fundamentally, we had some breakdowns which cost us the hockey game," said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. "For 53 minutes we did a lot of things really well, but they scored two goals which were flaws of defensive coverage."
Thursday's tilt marked the start of a three-game homestand for Toronto, which is 6-6-1 at the ACC this season. The Maple Leafs will close the residency with Wednesday's game against Tampa Bay.
03/16 10:21:57 ET