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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, January 5th (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (17-18-7) at Toronto Maple Leafs (14-19-9), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Fresh off a decisive win over the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Florida Panthers will try to continue heading in the right direction when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs for tonight's clash at Air Canada Center.

The Panthers closed the 2009 calendar year on a three-game losing streak, but jumped out to a quick start in 2010 with Sunday's 6-2 blowout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Radek Dvorak recorded a hat trick and Tomas Vokoun made 46 saves to lead the Panthers to the victory. Florida trailed 2-1 after the first period, but exploded for five unanswered goals over the next 40 minutes to skate away with the easy win.

Dvorak notched his third career hat trick and now has nine goals on the season. He had three total goals in his previous 17 games combined.

Meanwhile, Vokoun had his highest save total since stopping 52 shots in Florida's season-opening win over Chicago in Helsinki, Finland.

Jordan Leopold, Rostislav Olesz and Steven Reinprecht also scored for the Panthers.

Tonight's tilt marks the start of a three-game road trip for Florida, which is 10-10-2 as the guest this year. The Panthers will also visit Montreal and Washington during this swing.

The Maple Leafs come into tonight having lost two straight, five of six and seven of their last nine contests. Toronto recently went 1-2-0 on a three-game road trip and capped that trek with Saturday's 3-1 setback in Calgary, as Miikka Kiprusoff led the way for the Flames with 24 saves.

Jason Blake provided the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, while Jonas Gustavsson stopped 32-of-34 shots in defeat.

"We didn't win any battles for loose pucks," lamented Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. "The other teams working hard, and desperate, and you're not as desperate as they are, you're not going to be very effective."

The Leafs suffered injuries to centermen Mikhail Grabovski and Wayne Primeau on Saturday and both players will miss significant time. Grabovski broke his wrist and could miss up to six weeks, while Primeau is expected to be out for two-to-four weeks with a knee injury.

However, Toronto is expected to get a center back from injury tonight as John Mitchell appears ready to return from a knee ailment that has kept him out since November 23.

Toronto is 7-8-5 as the host this year and has lost two straight and three of its last four at Air Canada Centre.

The Maple Leafs notched a 6-4 victory over the Panthers when the clubs met in Florida on November 27. It was just the second win in the last seven games in the series for Toronto. Florida has still won three in a row and four of its last five at Air Canada Centre.

01/05 10:45:14 ET


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