NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, February 7th (All times eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (19-24-9) at Montreal Canadiens (29-17-6), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Maple Leafs and Canadiens haven't had trouble lightning the lamp against each other this season. One of the top rivalries in hockey resumes tonight, as Montreal hosts Toronto at the Bell Centre.
These two Northeast Division residents had split their eight-game season series in each of the last three seasons. Tonight is the fourth of six meetings between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens this season, with Montreal owning a 2-1-0 series edge.
The winning team has netted six goals in each of the three games this year. Montreal owns victories of 6-1 and 6-2 this season, while Toronto notched a 6-3 home win in between those two contests.
Alex Tanguay leads the Habs in scoring versus Toronto this year, notching a goal and five assists in just two games. Sergei Kostitsyn is second with five points, while Alex Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse and Saku Koivu each have four points. Tanguay (left shoulder) and Latendresse (shoulder) are both on injured reserve, however.
Though fourth overall in the Eastern Conference with 64 points, the Canadiens have lost six of their last eight games, including a 3-2 setback to Buffalo on Friday night.
Koivu and Roman Hamrlik provided a goal each in the loss to the Sabres, while Carey Price allowed three goals on 22 shots. Price is 4-2-0 with a 2.80 goals against average lifetime versus Toronto, though he dropped his lone start against them this season.
While Patrice Brisebois (lower body) is out for tonight's game, the Habs are expected to have tough guy Georges Laraque for this heated rivalry. Laraque returned to the lineup last night after missing 18 games due to a groin ailment.
Montreal has won six of its last eight at home, where it is 17-5-4 this season, but will hit the road for six straight following tonight's contest. The Canadiens' loss last night in Buffalo was their fifth straight as the guest and their upcoming road trip begins in Calgary on Monday.
The Maple Leafs kicked off a four-game road trip on Wednesday by getting blanked, 5-0, in Buffalo. Sabres netminder Ryan Miller needed to make just 16 saves to record the shutout and it marked the fourth time this year Toronto has been shut out and third time in the last 10 games.
Toronto gave 22-year-old netminder Justin Pogge his third career start and he was drilled for five goals on 32 shots faced. Pogge was the Maple Leafs' third-round pick in 2004 and has been getting some looks this year with starter Vesa Toskala posting a 3.34 GAA and .883 save percentage in 44 starts this year.
With Pogge getting reassigned to the minors on Thursday, Toskala should be in net tonight. He has actually helped Toronto post at least a point in each of his last four starts, going 2-0-2 in that span despite allowing a total of 15 goals.
Toskala is 5-3-1 with a 3.42 GAA lifetime versus Montreal, but is 1-2-0 against the Canadiens in three starts this year, allowing a total of 14 goals.
Toronto, fourth in the Northeast Division with 47 points, is 10-14-3 on the road this year and will also visit Florida and Tampa Bay on this swing.
Niklas Hagman has a team-best two goals versus Montreal this year, while Nik Antropov has four points off a goal and three assists. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matthew Stajan have three points each in the season series.
02/07 10:30:53 ET