Thrashers-Maple Leafs Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't been able to get much done on opponents' home ice lately. A game at Air Canada Centre could help them get back on track before hitting the road again.
Toronto goes for its third straight home win Monday night when it faces a slumping Atlanta Thrashers team.
The Maple Leafs (21-26-5) have dropped five in a row on the road after winning a season-high five straight away from Toronto. Saturday's 6-2 loss at Buffalo prevented the Maple Leafs from winning their third straight overall.
"As well as we played the other night (in Thursday's 3-0 victory over Carolina), we played as equally bad tonight," said coach Ron Wilson, whose team opens a stretch of four of five on the road on Tuesday against the New York Islanders.
While the Maple Leafs' 25 shots and 0-for-3 power-play effort didn't help, rookie goaltender James Reimer was also far less effective against the Sabres than he was Thursday when he earned his first career shutout.
"It's a tough one, but those happen," said Reimer, who was pulled after giving up five goals through two periods. "Me and everybody else just has to be a little bit better.''
If Wilson gives Reimer a third consecutive start in front of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, it will be the 21-year-old's third appearance against Atlanta (24-21-10). Reimer made his NHL debut in the teams' last matchup in Toronto on Dec. 20, stopping all four shots he faced after Wilson pulled Jonas Gustavsson in the third period of a 6-3 loss.
Reimer turned away 41 shots in a 9-3 victory at Atlanta on Jan. 7.
Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur each scored twice and defenseman Tomas Kaberle matched a career high with four assists in that matchup as Toronto avoided a third straight loss in this series.
Including that defeat, the Thrashers have lost 10 of 12 and are tied with Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Atlanta was atop the Southeast Division after capping off a 12-2-2 run with the Dec. 20 victory in Toronto.
"We had a stretch where we played at such a high level, and our schedule caught up to us," Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley told the teams' official website prior to Saturday's 4-3 overtime road loss to Carolina. "I don't know if our guys got tired, or what they got, but our tempo dropped off and now we're attempting to regroup and get that tempo back."
Atlanta, which has lost seven of 10 on the road, could benefit if All-Star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien regains his scoring touch.
Tied for the team lead in goals (16) and points (41), Byfuglien has not recorded a point in the last 13 games. The Thrashers have converted just five times in 40 power-play opportunities during this stretch.
With the team scoring three or fewer goals in each of these games, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has not had much margin for error. He has a 3-6-4 with a 3.38 GAA while starting each of those contests.
Pavelec has turned away 56 of 64 shots versus Toronto this season, and if in net on Monday, he will try to extend All-Star forward Phil Kessel's goal-scoring drought to 11 games.
Kessel had a goal and an assist in last month's victory in Atlanta.
The road team has won the last four in this series.