NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, February 27th (All times eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (27-27-8) at Atlanta Thrashers (25-26-11), 5 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Still hopeful of making the playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to extend a six-game point streak this evening when they visit an Atlanta Thrashers club at Philips Arena that has lost a season-worst five straight.
Though the Maple Leafs dropped a 6-5 shootout decision to the Penguins on Saturday, the point improved them to 4-0-2 in their last six and pulled them within five points of the Hurricanes for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto can make up even more ground today since Carolina is not in action.
Continued production from Phil Kessel will help. The All-Star had a pair of assists in yesterday's loss to give him six goals and four helpers over his last six games. Joffrey Lupul, playing in his eighth game since being acquired from Anaheim, also contributed with a pair of goals, his first in a Toronto uniform.
Defenseman Dion Phaneuf added a goal and an assist, but James Reimer gave up the only goal of the shootout after making 35 saves through overtime.
"I think it's just a case where the puck was just avoiding me tonight," Reimer said. "I don't know if there was any one thing where I kind of thought, 'Man, I didn't do that right.'"
Toronto will hope to rebound tonight with a fourth straight road win and has won five of seven and 10 of its last 14 in Atlanta. That includes a 9-3 triumph back on Jan. 7 that featured four points from Nikolai Kulemin and a pair of goals from both Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski.
The Maple Leafs have won two straight overall against the Thrashers, who are just 1-7-2 this month and dropped their fifth game in a row on Friday, a 2-1 shootout setback to the Panthers.
Playing in his third game since being acquired from the Bruins, Blake Wheeler had his first goal with Atlanta, which is one point behind Toronto in the standings.
"We've been outshooting teams the last five or six games, but we haven't been getting results," said Thrashers forward Anthony Stewart. "If we keep doing that, we're not going to lose many games."
Chris Mason could get his third start since Jan. 1 today after relieving an injured Ondrej Pavelec on Friday. Pavelec made six saves before exiting with an undisclosed injury and is day-to-day, while Mason made 25 saves in relief.
Atlanta recalled netminder Drew MacIntyre on Saturday from the American Hockey League.
The Thrashers began a five-game homestand with Friday's loss.
Atlanta forward Chris Thorburn will play for the first time since signing a multi-year contract extension on Saturday. The 27-year-old has a career high- tying seven goals this year as well as 16 points in 62 games.
02/27 10:34:16 ET