NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, March 20th
(All times eastern)
New Jersey Devils (43-21-8) at Toronto Maple Leafs (34-28-10), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Two Eastern Conference teams currently locked in heated
playoff races will face off tonight at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, where the
Maple Leafs return home for an important matchup with the New Jersey Devils.
Tonight's showdown is more crucial for the Maple Leafs, who stand two points
behind Carolina for the eighth and final postseason spot in the East. New
Jersey has all but assured itself a playoff berth, but its once-comfortable
lead atop the Atlantic Division over the hard-charging Pittsburgh Penguins has
dwindled to a mere two points.
There's also a bit of bad blood between the clubs, stemming from an incident
when they last faced each other earlier this month. In a 4-3 Toronto victory
at the Meadowlands on March 2, Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle had to be taken
off the ice on a stretcher after being leveled along the boards by a late hit
from Devils enforcer Cam Janssen.
Janssen was handed a three-game suspension by the NHL for his actions, while
Kaberle has yet to return from concussion-like symptoms resulting from the
play. The All-Star blueliner recently returned to practice but is still
unlikely to suit up tonight.
Toronto didn't help its playoff cause when it dropped back-to-back road games
at Washington and Montreal over the weekend. The Maple Leafs did manage to
earn a point in Saturday's loss to the rival Canadiens, who needed a shootout
before coming through with a 3-2 decision.
Kyle Wellwood had a goal and an assist and Pavel Kubina also tallied for
Toronto. Netminder Andrew Raycroft compiled 29 saves in regulation, but
allowed goals to the Habs' Saku Koivu and Andrei Kostitsyn during the
The Maple Leafs will be attempting to extend a three-game home win streak
tonight, although the team has posted a disappointing 15-15-5 record at the
Air Canada Centre this season.
New Jersey continued its shaky month of March with an embarrassing home loss
to Carolina on Saturday. The Hurricanes erupted for four second-period goals
en route to a 7-2 rout in the finale of a home-and-home series between the
Martin Brodeur yielded four goals on just 12 shots before being pulled in
favor of Scott Clemmensen midway through the second period. David Clarkson and
Travis Zajac had the goals for the Devils, who fell to 3-4-1 for the month.
New Jersey played its second straight game without forwards Patrik Elias and
John Madden, both of whom are hobbled by groin injuries and are doubtful to
Tonight's contest begins a five-game road trip for the Devils, who have won
three in a row away from home and are an impressive 21-11-3 as the visitor.
The Devils had taken the first two meetings of this year's season series
before Toronto's victory earlier this month. The Leafs have won six of the
last eight encounters, though, and are 3-1 against New Jersey at home during
03/20 10:29:57 ET