Devils-Maple Leafs Preview
The Maple Leafs are allowing plenty of shots per game, a statistic that finally caught up to Toronto at the end of its recent road trip.
Those numbers may not be a problem, however, against a New Jersey Devils team that is averaging the fewest shots in the NHL.
David Clarkson will face his former club for the first time when the Maple Leafs go for their fifth win in six home games Friday night against the Devils.
Toronto (10-5-0) allowed a season-high 47 shots in a 4-0 loss at Vancouver on Saturday that ended a three-game win streak. James Reimer did his best to keep the Leafs in it with 43 saves, but they were outshot for the 13th with just 21 attempts of their own.
Although Toronto sits 29th in the league with a shots-per-game differential of minus-10.67, the Leafs fortunately are in the top 10 with just 2.40 goals allowed per game.
Coming off a six-day layoff, they'll try to turn it around against the Devils (4-7-4), who rank last in the league with 25.1 shots per game and near the bottom with 29 goals.
"We're trying to get back on track in our system and the way we have to play defensively," said goalie Jonathan Bernier, who could start versus the Devils or play Saturday in Boston.
It'll certainly be a special night for Clarkson, who will take on his former teammates for the first time since signing a seven-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July. The winger had 97 goals and 73 assists in seven seasons with the Devils.
"I had a lot of friends there," said Clarkson, who has one assist in five games. "I have the utmost respect for Mr. (Lou) Lamoriello, and I've been lucky enough to play for that coaching staff, especially Peter DeBoer, someone I believe has made me successful in my career by giving me the opportunity and believing in me and understanding me as a person."
Clarkson will try to help the Leafs win their fifth straight over the Devils. They're also looking to continue their recent surge at home, where they've outscored opponents 20-12 while winning four of five.
New Jersey bounced back Thursday after consecutive shutout losses, winning for only the second time in 10 road games with a 3-0 victory at Philadelphia.
Adam Henrique got the Devils going in the first period with his team-leading fifth goal, but he's scored only once in seven career meetings with the Maple Leafs.
"Obviously the men went seven periods (without scoring), and I think regardless of what you say, there are seeds planted in the back of your mind," DeBoer said. "To get a break early like that, I think it relieved a little bit of pressure."
New Jersey had only three goals combined while dropping all three meetings with the Leafs last season. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky had a two-goal game in a 4-2 loss at Toronto on March 4, but he's found the net only once in 14 games this season.
Clarkson had the Devils' only other score in a 2-1 home loss to Toronto on April 6.
Reimer, who stopped 32 shots to beat New Jersey 2-0 at home April 15, has a 1.47 goals-against average while winning his last four against the Devils.
After Martin Brodeur posted his 122nd career shutout Thursday, Cory Schneider could get the start with the team playing the second of back-to-back games. Schneider has a .873 save percentage while losing his last three starts.