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The Leafs return home to play their last game of 2006 when they host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night (7:00PM ET, CBC). Losers of 3 of their last 4 games, Toronto is coming off of a loss to the Pittbsurgh Penguins the night before, their 1st defeat their since November 1st 2001.

Mats Sundin scored the only goal for the Leafs who have been inconsistent at best on the ice as of late, and are now going through injury problems at the worse possible time in the season.

Related Topic: http://www.hockeyforum.com/toronto-maple-leafs/6028-gameday-39-toronto-maple-leafs-pittsburgh.html

Darcy Tucker, leading the Leafs in goals with 19, was missing from last night's loss to the Penguins with a bruised foot, but is expected to return tonight.

Alexei Ponikarovksy (elbow) and Kyle Wellwood (hip-flexor) did not make the trip to Pittburgh, along with Michael Peca who is out 3-4 months with a knee injury.

Related Topic: http://www.hockeyforum.com/toronto-maple-leafs/5773-peca-out-three-months-knee-injury.html
Related Topic: http://www.hockeyforum.com/toronto-maple-leafs/5680-leafs-ponikarovsky-hurt-practice.html
Related Topic: http://www.hockeyforum.com/toronto-maple-leafs/5633-wellwood-leaves-practice-injury.html

Jean-Sebastin Aubin, who started in net in place of Andrew Raycroft, stoppe 26 of shots 30 in a game where the Leafs took 10 penalties and unconciously tested the Penguins' Powerplay.

Leaf Coach Paul Maurice summed up the situtation as best he could:

Paul Maurice said:
"We just can't stay out of the penalty box."
Raycroft is expected to start tonight against the Senators. He is 15-12-3 after 29 games and has a 3.09 Goals Against Average an .893 Save Percentage

Mats SUndin once again leads the team in points, with 35 Points in 32 Games (16G, 19A)

Toronto is 17-17-5 for 39 points after 39 games. placing them 11th in the Eastern Conference, and last in the Northeast Division.

The Senators, also inconsistent as of late, are coming off of a 1-0 victory of over the New York Rangers the night last night. With injuries to Jason Spezza (knee) and Mike Fishers (knee) Chris Kelly had to step up and take over the top line center position with Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson riding his wings.

Related Topic: http://www.hockeyforum.com/ottawa-senators/6063-emery-closes-door-reeling-rangers.html

After a slow start to the Season, Dany Heatley now leads the team with 20 goals in 39 games, and is tied for the team lead in points with Jason Spezza, both having and 44.

Senators Goaltenders Ray Emery has taken the reigns and run with them, with yet another shutout to add to his resume this season. So far he has a 2.57 Goals Against Average and .916 Save Percentage , along with a 13-9-0 record after 24 games.

Emery is likely to start tonight in what should be a tale of two Rayzors, and a battle of the Sharpest.

Ottawa holds the last playoff spot in the East, with a 20-18-1 record after 39 games for 41 Points - 2 ahead of Toronto. They are also 3rd in the Northeast Division behind the Montreal Canadiens and 1st place Buffalo Sabres.

The meeting will be the 1st between the 2 teams since a home-and-home which Ottawa swept in October, embarassing the Leafs 6-2 in Toronto, and 7-2 in Ottawa.

This will be Round #5 of the "Battle of Ontario" this year, with teams already having met 4 times in October.
 

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Simply put: Disgraceful.

Raycroft played his heart out for the team, what what happens?

They let him down, just like they do the fans. Time and time again.

The 3 goals against him were scored in no different manner from the way the Leafs embarassed Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour, mainly the defence.

Some players on the team don't belong in the NHL, most notably Ben Ondrus.

And Ian White: as hopeful as I was for him before, he just doesn't have desire in the defencive zone. he lacks drive, and is very lazy.

Brendan Bell... well, I don't know how he'll be like in a few years, but this year it is too high a class for his kind.

And finally, Bryan McCabe. I don't know if I can say tha the doesn't belong in the league, but he's not a top 2 defenceman... maybe not even a top 4. His defencive play is not good enough to warrant the minutes he gets. Yes, he has offence, but that's all. Unfortunately, he's a defenceman ,and I don't think that's enough for a guy who main job is to stop the opposition from getting too many quality scoring opportunities. He's too soft, and they know that he will break... every single game. Something could be said about how he he thinks nothing he does out there is worth a penalty, but that isn't a high concern right now IMO.

I can add in a word about Hal Gill here, but I think it's well known that he's not playing as well as he did 2 months ago. He's been below average at best really.

On whole, the Leafs defencive corps isn't smart. They don't have the brains to make the right choices out there, and it hurts them time and time again. Their outlet passes are crisp, yet placed wrongly. They're actually quite talented... so muc hso that they become too fancy. And offencively, knowing their firepower, they take too many risks, and their over-confidence is contradicted by the amount of 2-on-1's and whatever other odd-man rushes they give up constantly every period.

Things need to change, and decisions need ot be made. Tomorrow is January 1st, 2007.

It is also the end of the 1st half of the season for the team, and they can't possibly go anything over .500 right now already being below by 1 game.

They have to have an incredible 2nd half of the Season to undo the damage that they have place upon themselves, but in all honesty:

Do they have the players to do it? I mean, Paul Maurice can yell scream all he wants, but if the players he has o nthe ice are too dumb to change the way they play, and make the necessary adjustments to their game to create more of a chance for success, then will it really make a difference?
 
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