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Saturday, March 17th (All times eastern)

Toronto Maple Leafs (34-28-9) at Montreal Canadiens (35-31-6), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A battle between two longtime rivals coming off disappointing losses takes place tonight at Montreal's Bell Centre, where the Canadiens entertain the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Intensity usually runs high whenever these two Original Six squads get together, but this late-season showdown carries added importance because of both teams' positions in the Eastern Conference standings. The Maple Leafs are presently one point in back of Carolina and the New York Islanders, co-holders of the final two playoff spots in the East, while the Canadiens sit just one point behind Toronto in 11th place.

The Leafs missed out on an opportunity to gain ground last night, as Toronto was easily handled by a Washington team that came in having lost nine consecutive games. Alexander Semin had a goal and two assists while Olaf Kolzig made 34 saves as the Capitals cruised to a 5-1 victory at the Verizon Center.

Nik Antropov had the only Toronto goal and Andrew Raycroft stopped 28 shots for the Maple Leafs, who had won three of four prior to the setback.

Mats Sundin assisted on Antropov's tally, but the Toronto captain remains one goal away from tying Darryl Sittler's franchise record of 389.

Montreal had won two in a row before running into potent Pittsburgh on Friday. Sidney Crosby and Erik Christensen each had two goals as the Penguins handed the Habs a 6-3 defeat at Mellon Arena.

Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov both had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, while Michael Ryder finished with a pair of helpers.

The loss was Montreal's fifth in seven games and the club is a dismal 7-13-1 since February 1.

The Habs played last night's contest without forwards Alexei Kovalev and Radek Bonk, both of whom are questionable to return tonight. Kovalev has missed two straight games with a bout of vertigo and Bonk is suffering from the flu.

These fellow Northeast Division inhabitants have split six previous meetings this season, with Montreal taking two of the three encounters as the host. The Maple Leafs have lost in four of their last five visits to the Bell Centre.

03/17 10:25:21 ET

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