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.