NHL Preview from The Sports Network |
Friday, January 30th
(All times eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (27-13-8-3) at Atlanta Thrashers (21-23-6-2), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - With Dany Heatley's emotional return to game ice behind
them, the Atlanta Thrashers try to end a four-game winless streak and move up
in the playoff race tonight when they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to
On Wednesday, Heatley played for the first time since the tragic September
automobile accident that took the life of teammate Dan Snyder. The Thrashers
received a late third-period goal from Jeff Cowan to escape with a 1-1 home
tie against the St. Louis Blues.
Heatley, the 2002 Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year and last year's
All-Star Game MVP, played 22:55 and got four shots on net, which tied for the
team lead. He obviously and admittedly needs time to get in full game shape.
Heatley, who suffered two torn knee ligaments and a broken jaw in the
accident, made dramatic progress in his rehabilitation. He began practicing
with the team on January 16 and engaged in his first full-contact practice on
January 21, his birthday.
As for the Thrashers' playoff chances, they currently trail first-place Tampa
Bay by nine points in the Southeast Division standings. Bob Hartley's club is
ninth in the Eastern Conference race -- five back of the eighth-place NY
Atlanta, which is 0-2-2 in its last four contests, will visit the Lightning on
Toronto, meanwhile, is in its own battle atop the East. The Maple Leafs have
slipped into second in the Northeast Division with 65 points -- one behind
Ottawa, which is tied with Philadelphia atop the conference.
The Leafs fell, 2-0, to visiting Carolina on Tuesday to have a three-game
winning streak halted. Kevin Weekes made 32 saves for his sixth shutout of the
season to back the Hurricanes.
Ed Belfour, who stopped all seven shots he faced in the first period, turned
aside 17 of the 19 Carolina tries in the game. Belfour has allowed two goals
or less in each of the past four games, but is expected to yield the crease to
backup Trevor Kidd tonight. Kidd will make his first start since being touched
for seven goals against Ottawa on January 8.
Toronto, 3-0-2 on the road against the Southeast Division this season, will
host Ottawa on Saturday.
The Leafs and Thrashers have split two games this campaign, with each club
winning in the other's building. Toronto has won three of the past four
meetings, including two straight at Philips Arena.
01/30 10:24:33 ET