NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 18th (All times eastern)
New Jersey Devils (42-24-3) at Toronto Maple Leafs (24-34-12), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Although it's highly unlikely to result in a playoff spot, the Toronto Maple Leafs have put together one of their best stretches of the season over the past week. They'll try to sustain that newfound momentum into a three-game homestand that begins with tonight's battle against the New Jersey Devils from the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto has gone 4-1-0 over its last five outings and won all three of its matchups on home ice during that period. The club just came back from consecutive road games and concluded the short trip with a 4-1 victory over the reeling Ottawa Senators Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
Jonas Gustavsson made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs in a strong performance between the pipes, with Phil Kessel, John Mitchell, Mikhail Grabovski and Rickard Wallin all scoring goals to provide the offense.
"We played a great road game," said Toronto head coach Ron Wilson. "We had a bad end to the second period, we got a little sloppy and lost our poise with the puck a few times. We rebounded in the third period and did a great job drawing penalties and forcing the issue and not sitting back."
Despite their recent charge, the Maple Leafs still reside at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with 60 points.
Grabovski's tally extended his scoring streak to five games, with the German center having recorded two goals and three assists over that span. Nikolai Kulemin assisted on Kessel's goal and now has eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) during a personal six-game run.
New Jersey heads to the Air Canada Centre off last night's big home win over rival Pittsburgh, with the 5-2 triumph giving the Devils a share of the Atlantic Division lead with the Penguins.
Zach Parise and Patrik Elias each had a goal and an assist for New Jersey, which took advantage of a shaky Marc-Andre Fleury and jumped out to a 4-1 advantage just past the midway point of the second period. Martin Brodeur made the lead stand by stopping 24-of-26 shots and help the Devils to a sixth consecutive win over Pittsburgh.
"With the respect that we have for them, we know that if we don't play hard we're going to have a tough time," Brodeur said of the defending Cup champion Penguins. "That respect makes us more accountable to the way we play."
Fleury was pulled 10:17 into the second period after letting up four goals on only 13 shots.
The victory was the fourth in five games for the Devils, who own a game in hand on the Penguins in the division race, but each of those wins have taken place at home. New Jersey has dropped its last three road tilts and is a dismal 1-8-1 as the visitor since January 26.
One of those losses occurred at the Air Canada Centre, a 3-0 setback on February 2 in which Leafs netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere delivered 30 saves. The Devils did win both 2009-10 meetings between the teams held in the Garden State.
03/18 16:45:50 ET