Maple Leafs-Devils Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs might be in danger of falling out of playoff position if they can’t end one of their longest skids of the season Sunday night.
With No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier not traveling to New Jersey, the Maple Leafs will try to snap their four-game skid by adding to their recent dominance over the Devils, who will try to avoid another blow to their fading playoff hopes.
Toronto (36-28-8) had the third-most points in the Eastern Conference and was second in the Atlantic Division on March 15 but has fallen into the wild-card race after losing four in a row. The Maple Leafs also suffered their fifth defeat in six games Saturday, losing 4-3 to rival Montreal.
Toronto rallied from an early two-goal deficit and tied the score again early in the third period before giving up the tiebreaking goal with 8:46 to go.
"You have to turn the page. There’s no looking back on today. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ve got to pull ourselves out of it," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We’ve been close, but close isn’t good enough right now. We know we’re going to get out of it. We’ve just go to find a way and it’s got to come tomorrow."
The loss kept the Maple Leafs just two points in front of ninth-place Columbus. The Blue Jackets hold the tiebreaker over Toronto with four more non-shootout wins and Detroit is just one point back of the Leafs after winning three in a row.
The Maple Leafs will try to stay in front of those clubs by posting a seventh consecutive win against another scuffling team. New Jersey (30-28-13) has dropped four of five after a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
The Devils are currently 11th in the East and six points behind Detroit with 11 games remaining.
"It was a tough one," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "We played a good game out there. It was a chess match. Just kind of a fluky goal was decisive in this game. It’s unfortunate."
Toronto has taken a pair of shootout victories over New Jersey this season with Bernier beating Cory Schneider in both games. Bernier hasn’t played since March 13 because of a groin injury, and that means either James Reimer or Drew MacIntyre will be in net.
Reimer has a 3.84 GAA during the team’s four-game slide while MacIntyre hasn’t appeared in an NHL game since Nov. 25, 2011. Reimer is 4-0-0 with a 1.47 GAA in his last four games against New Jersey, most recently winning April 15, and MacIntyre played 7:58 versus the Devils in a 5-3 loss for Buffalo on Nov. 16, 2011.
Schneider is expected to start for New Jersey. His only two matchups against Toronto came in this season’s shootouts.
The Maple Leafs dropped a season-high five in a row Nov. 25-Dec. 3.