Oilers-Maple Leafs Preview
Strong goaltending has played a key role in the Toronto Maple Leafs' fast start. The same can't be said about the Edmonton Oilers' situation between the pipes.
The surging Maple Leafs try to get off to their best start in 20 years Saturday night when they host an Edmonton team looking to avoid its worst five-game start since 1995-96.
Toronto (4-1-0) continued its solid play behind Jonathan Bernier in a 4-0 victory in Nashville on Thursday, as he made a season-high 36 saves for his seventh career shutout.
Bernier appears to be taking control of the No. 1 role with the Maple Leafs, ranking among NHL leaders with a 0.84 goals-against average and .974 save percentage.
"I don't think we're any different than any other team in the league,'' Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "To have success, your goalie's got to give you a chance, it's as simple as that."
Carlyle has given Bernier two straight starts after Bernier replaced James Reimer in the second period of a 5-4 shootout win over Ottawa last Saturday.
Whoever gets the call in net will try to help Toronto to its fifth win in six games, which would be the team's best start since opening 1993-94 with 10 victories.
The situation in goal hasn't been nearly as stable for Edmonton, which ranks at or near the bottom of the league in save percentage at .847 and goals-against average at 4.75.
Devan Dubnyk couldn't put an end to those woes Thursday when he stopped 23 of 26 shots in a 4-1 loss to Montreal. He's posted a 5.28 GAA while dropping his last three starts.
Dubnyk didn't fare much better in his only start against the Maple Leafs, allowing five goals in a 6-3 loss in Toronto on Feb. 6, 2012.
Jason LaBarbera could get his second start after yielding four scores in a 5-4 shootout win over New Jersey on Monday. He's 1-1-0 with a 2.02 GAA in two career starts against the Maple Leafs.
The Oilers, beginning a six-game road trip, are trying to avoid opening with four losses in five games for the first time in 18 years.
"I wouldn't mind a break to go our way," coach Dallas Eakins said. "Improvement is nice, but it's not good enough if you end up losing the game.''
Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists against the Predators, and he's recorded six goals and four assists in his last six meetings with the Oilers.
Teammate Joffrey Lupul has scored in three straight games despite dealing with a calf injury. He's recorded a goal in each of his last two against Edmonton.
The Maple Leafs have won three straight against the Oilers and 13 of 17 meetings in Toronto.