Canadiens-Maple Leafs Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs have experienced a bit of a slide while their No. 1 goaltender has been sidelined.
With or without Jonathan Bernier, they’ll try to end a three-game losing streak that has complicated their playoff standing Saturday night at home against the Montreal Canadiens, who have second place in the Atlantic Division on their minds.
Bernier has missed the last three games since suffering a groin injury on March 13 in Los Angeles, and he’ll be a game-day decision against the Canadiens.
"We think (Bernier) is showing progress. To say that he is available for (Saturday), I can’t tell you that right now," coach Randy Carlyle told the team’s official website Friday after practice. "That will be a decision we’ll make more than likely (Saturday) afternoon."
The Maple Leafs (36-27-8) lost 5-3 at home Wednesday to Tampa Bay with James Reimer in goal.
Reimer, who made 31 saves in two scoreless periods to preserve the win at Los Angeles after replacing Bernier, has struggled since, posting a 3.76 goals-against average while losing all three starts.
"I just want to come out and play well and kind of be a difference-maker, and unfortunately it wasn’t the case," Reimer said after the loss to the Lightning. "I thought I made some good saves, but it definitely wasn’t the performance I was looking for."
In splitting four games against Montreal (38-26-7) this season, Bernier has gotten most of the work with a 1-1-1 record and 3.64 GAA. Reimer started the season opener against the Canadiens, which resulted in a 4-3 home win.
Either Bernier or Reimer figures to have his hands full stopping Thomas Vanek. The deadline acquisition has four goals in his last two games for Montreal, including one in Wednesday’s 3-2 home loss to Columbus. Vanek hadn’t scored in his first five games with the Canadiens.
Aside from Vanek and Brendan Gallagher’s first-period power-play goal, bright spots were hard to come by in a loss that snapped a three-game winning streak.
"They were first on the puck, making us react to them, putting us on our heels a bit," said Montreal center Lars Eller, who now finds his team two points back of Tampa Bay in the division. "When they do that, we take penalties."
Carey Price made 37 saves and saw a personal five-game winning streak that straddled the Olympic break come to an end. In three games since returning from injury, Price is 2-1-0 with a 3.37 GAA.
Price has struggled in the last two years against Toronto. Since March 3, 2012, he’s 2-6-0 with a 3.66 GAA and .885 save percentage.
In addition to Bernier, Toronto is hoping to have center Dave Bolland back Saturday. Bolland hasn’t played since severing a tendon in his ankle on Nov. 2, but has returned to practice.
They’ll be without defenseman Paul Ranger, who suffered head and neck injuries against Tampa Bay.
Fellow defenseman Jake Gardiner scored against the Lightning and has five goals in his last seven games while top scorer Phil Kessel also scored to snap a season-long four-game drought without a point.
Kessel has 14 points in his last nine games against Montreal, including nine on a six-game streak.
Montreal’s Max Pacioretty has five assists in his last five games. He also has four goals and two assists in his last three games against Toronto.