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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, March 3rd (All times Eastern)

Toronto Maple Leafs (29-28-7) at Montreal Canadiens (25-30-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A month-long slump has put the Maple Leafs' chances of ending their six-year playoff drought in serious trouble. It also led to a change on the bench Friday.

Toronto hits the ice one day after the firing of head coach Ron Wilson hoping to get its postseason chances back on track as it visits the rival Montreal Canadiens.

The Maple Leafs, who haven't qualified for the postseason since 2004, held the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff seed on Feb. 7, but Toronto has dropped 10-of-11 games since to fall five points out of a postseason berth.

Toronto has lost six in a row (0-5-1) since its last victory on Feb. 15 in Edmonton. It is the longest slide for the Leafs since an eight-game losing streak from Oct. 28-Nov. 13 of last season and caused general manager Brian Burke to fire Wilson and replace him with former Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle.

Wilson was hired by Toronto on June 10, 2008 and went 130-135-45 in 310 games with the club.

"This was not an easy decision for me to make," said Burke. "I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons."

The 55-year-old Carlyle spent seven seasons as the head coach of the Anaheim Ducks before getting fired earlier this season after a 7-13-4 start. He posted a 273-182-61 record in 516 regular-season contests with Anaheim and led the franchise to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2007.

Montreal, which is last in the East and five points behind Toronto, has not fared well in recent weeks either, losing seven of its last nine trips to the ice. The Canadiens are coming off a win, however, as they posted a shootout triumph Thursday against Minnesota to end a stretch of five straight regulation losses.

Two of the biggest rivals in all of professional sports, the Leafs and Habs have split four meetings this year. Montreal has won the last two encounters and posted a 5-0 rout in Toronto when the clubs last met on Feb. 11. Carey Price made 32 saves to record the shutout for the Canadiens. Toronto has won the last two and four of six in Montreal.

The Maple Leafs have surrendered a whopping 26 goals during their six-game slide and are coming off Wednesday's 5-4 regulation setback in Chicago. Toronto led the game by a 3-2 score after 20 minutes, but the Leafs didn't score again until Mike Brown made it a one-goal game with just four seconds left in the final period.

Joffrey Lupul had a goal and an assist for Toronto, while Jonas Gustavsson was charged with four goals on 34 shots.

"It was tough, we had the bounces going against us tonight," said Gustavsson. "I mean, we got those three to start, but I let in some shots. Tough one to lose tonight."

Toronto has lost five of its last six road games and is 13-16-2 as the guest this season.

The Canadiens earned their first win since Feb. 17 by posting a 5-4 victory against the visiting Wild. David Desharnais scored in the second round of the shootout to lift Montreal to the victory, It wasn't a pretty win, however, as the Habs led 4-1 midway through the third period only to allow Minnesota to send the game to overtime by scoring three times in the final 3:53 of regulation.

Desharnais had a goal and two assists in regulation, while Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban each added a tally and a helper for Montreal.

Lars Eller also lit the lamp for the Canadiens and Carey Price made 26 saves in the win.

Desharnais has scored in three straight games and has six points (3 goals, 3 assists) over that stretch. He is leading Montreal with 50 points this season.

"Lately Dave (Desharnais) has come up huge and that's why we won this game. Dave is probably the best player I've ever played with. He's proven that the more people doubt him, the better he is," Pacioretty said.

Montreal had lost four straight on home ice prior to the win over the Wild. The Habs are just 12-14-8 as the host this season.

03/03 10:32:27 ET


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