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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, March 29th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (44-24-10) at Toronto Maple Leafs (35-33-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens can clinch the Northeast Division title tonight with a little help and will try to do their part as they visit the rival Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

The Canadiens haven't won a division crown since taking the Adams in 1991-92, but can seal up the Northeast with a win and a loss by Ottawa in Boston.

Montreal is also battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and currently is occupying the No. 1 seed, but has just a one-point lead over Pittsburgh. The Canadiens can extend that edge tonight, as the Penguins are off until Sunday's home test against the New York Rangers.

The Habs posted their fourth straight win on Friday, as they earned an exciting victory in Buffalo. Christopher Higgins scored with 1:22 left in overtime as Montreal rallied from a late two-goal deficit to beat the Sabres, 4-3, at HSBC Arena.

Tomas Plekanec scored twice while Mark Streit added three assists for the Canadiens, who were down 3-1 but scored two goals in the final 2:31 of regulation to force the extra session.

Carey Price finished the game with 35 saves for Montreal, which used the two points to jump back ahead of Pittsburgh for first overall in the Eastern Conference.

Tonight's test is the middle portion of a three-game road trip for the Canadiens, who have a strong 24-11-4 record as the visiting club. Montreal has won four of five and seven of its last nine road tests and will close this swing Tuesday in Ottawa before ending the regular season on a two-game homestand.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, were officially eliminated from the postseason with a loss to Boston in their last outing. Toronto will miss out on the playoffs for the third straight season, marking the longest postseason drought in the franchise's storied history.

Toronto had won three straight before getting swept in a home-and-home series by the rival Bruins. After pounding the Leafs, 6-2, Tuesday night in Toronto, Boston followed with a 4-2 home win on Thursday. Phil Kessel and Peter Schaefer each had a goal and an assist to help the Bruins sweep the home-and- home and finish with a 5-3 record against Toronto this year.

Jiri Tlusty and Pavel Kubina tallied, and Vesa Toskala turned aside 30 shots for Toronto, which failed to benefit from the return of Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov.

Sundin, who leads the club with 78 points, had missed five games with a groin injury. Antropov, the team's second-leading scorer, was sidelined four straight with a knee ailment. Each player had an assist in the contest, but it wasn't enough to propel the Leafs in a must-win game.

Tonight's test opens a three-game homestand for the Maple Leafs, who are just 17-16-5 as the host. Toronto, which will end its regular season with a road test in Montreal, has lost four of five and five of its last seven home games.

The Maple Leafs and Canadiens have split six meetings this season and will wrap up the season series in Montreal on April 5. The Habs have won five of nine overall against the Leafs, including two straight in Toronto, but Montreal has also lost in five of its last eight stops at Air Canada Centre.

03/29 10:40:36 ET


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