Fresh off of the NHL All-Star break, yet not much healthier, the Toronto Maple Leafs return home to a tight race in the Eastern Conference standings when they face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night (7:00PM ET, CBC).
Toronto's last game was yet another nightmare for the inconsistent club and its fans, losing 8-2 to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The All-Star's 3 Points, along with fellow All-Star Youngstars Evgeni Malkin's 5 Assists and Jordan Staals goal in the 1st, helped to put the boot to the Leafs who dared to tempt what ended up being a lethal powerplay by the Pens.
The team's discipline was yet again forgotten, as the penalties they took in the 1st and 2nd put the team down 5-1, and perhaps ended the team's chance at a win when the game was only halfway through. Pittsburgh scored on 5 of Toronto's 19 Powerplays, 3 of them off of Mark Recchi's stick for the Hattrick.
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When they face Montreal tonight, the Leafs will continue to be without Winger Darcy Tucker (Foot), Centerman Kyle Wellwood (Hernia), and Defenceman Ian White (Shoulder). The earliest return could be White, expected back in 2 weeks.Mark Recchi said:''I'm not going to lie to you; we wanted to get there before the break, and we got to that goal. Guys were talking about it and paying attention to it. Now we can enjoy our break.''
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Andrew Raycroft allowed 5 goals on 21 shots and was pulled for back-up Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who allowed 3 goals on 9.
Mats Sundin is now at a Point Per Game pace on the season with 42 points in 42 games played, and continues to lead the Leafs thus far (18G, 24A).
The Captain now says he has to step up his production if the team is going to have a chance at a playoff spot down the final stretch.
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Toronto is currently 2 points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last playoff spot in the East, with a 22-21-6 record after 49 games. The team is yet again at risk of falling below .500.
Raycroft is currently 20-16-4 after games played, and has a high Goals Against Average of 3.10 and Save Percentage of .892 for Toronto, who are 4th in the Northeast Division.
Long-time rival Montreal has had more of a solid season overall, going 27-17-5 after 49 games. The team is currently 1 point up on their Northeast Division rival Ottawa Senators, who also play today, for possession of the last home-ice advantage spot in the East.
The team was struggling slightly going into the break when they lost 3 in a row, but have somewhat gotten back on track by wining 2 straight and hoping to add on a 3rd when they face the Leafs tonight.
Canadiens All-Star goaltender Cristobal Huet's stellar play for the team has put behind all word of a possible controversy in net for the the Habs. Huet is 19-10-3 after 35 Games, and has a 2.63 Goals Against Average and a solid .923 Save Percentage. His play has been a huge part in helping the team keep pace with the Northeast Division Buffalo Sabres, who they trail by 11 Points for 1st in the Eastern Conference heading into the homestretch.
All-Star defenceman Sheldon Souray's Montreal record of 13 Powerplay goals has also been a huge boost to the team, along with his 40 points in total after 48 games (16G, 24A).
Meanwhile, Habs Captain Saku Koivu continues to lead his club with 42 Points in 48 Games played (16G, 26A). His goal in a 4-3 victory over Buffalo last Saturday was his 1st in 11 Games.
The Habs also good news on the injury front. With forward Steve Begin now ready to return tonight and face Toronto tonight, the team should get a bit of a boost with the return of the energetic forward.
Related Topic: http://www.hockeyforum.com/montreal-canadiens/7476-begin-practises-but-return-doubtful.htmlSteve Begin said:''I've made some real strides the last two weeks, but I'm still day-to-day''.
This is the 4th of 8 meetings between the 2 clubs this year, with Toronto winning 1 and Montreal winning the other 2.