Maple Leafs-Predators Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs have hit a slump since their solid
start, but Phil Kessel hasn’t skipped a beat.
He’ll look to stay hot and help Toronto to its fourth straight
road victory Thursday night against the surging Nashville
Kessel scored his league-leading 13th goal but failed to convert
in the shootout during a 3-2 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday. He scored
with 15:19 left in regulation to rally the Leafs from a 2-0
”We battled,” said Kessel, who has three goals and an assist
in his last four games and at least one point in 15 of Toronto’s 18
games. ”We really tried to win this game and we battled back.
Hopefully we can build on it.”
The defeat dropped Toronto (10-6-2) to 1-3-1 in its last
”We’ve got to bring that same resilience to start the game,”
said Mike Komisarek, whose goal preceded Kessel’s to begin the
comeback attempt. ”Not sort of feeling the other team out and
seeing what kind of game it’s going to be. We need to dictate the
play and assert ourselves.”
The Leafs’ win during their slide came in St. Louis on Nov. 10,
giving them four wins in five games on the road. They’ll look to
continue that run in Nashville, where the task may be more
difficult without second-line forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke
Grabovski left Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury
following a collision at center ice, and MacArthur sat out the
third period with a lower-body injury. The team announced Wednesday
Grabovski will miss at least two weeks and MacArthur will not play
in this game, but coach Ron Wilson said forward Tim Connolly likely
will be in the lineup Thursday.
Nashville (9-5-3) is 3-0-1 in its last four games at home and
6-1-2 in its last nine overall after beating Washington 3-1 at home
Tuesday. Martin Erat and Shea Weber each had a goal and an assist,
and Colin Wilson scored for the second time in three games after
going his previous 10 without a goal.
Pekka Rinne, who signed a seven-year, $49 million extension Nov.
3, made 39 saves and improved to 6-0-2 with a 1.97 goals-against
average over his last eight starts.
“Unbelievable. There’s a reason he got signed up for seven more
years,” Wilson told the team’s official website. “You see how
valuable he is. I don’t know how you can play any better than
Since a 17-save shutout of Toronto on Jan. 13, 2009, however,
Rinne has struggled against the Leafs. He allowed three goals on
eight shots in the first nine minutes before Kessel scored the
game-winning goal in a 4-3 loss Jan. 18, 2010. Rinne then lost 5-4
in the most recent meeting between the teams Nov. 16, 2010.
The Predators are 1-0-1 on their current five-game homestand,
which Rinne said has helped them realize how good of a team the
Predators can be.
“This homestand is important for us,” Rinne said. “It showed
that resiliency that we’ve been known to have, going back to last
year. We never seem to panic anymore. That’s a good sign. We just
keep going at it.”
Toronto’s goaltending has been suspect since James Reimer
suffered what is believed to be a concussion Oct. 22, though the
Leafs have kept his status quiet. Rookie Ben Scrivens, who has
started the last three games, has gone 2-2-1 with a 2.92 GAA, and
Jonas Gustavsson is 3-3-0 with a 3.34 GAA.
The Predators have won two of three all-time meetings at home
against the Leafs.