Wild face Leafs in Toronto Tuesday

BY foxsports • November 9, 2009

By Mike Lipka, STATS Writer


The Toronto Maple Leafs are still in last place in the Northeast
Division, but there's certainly a changing feeling as the Minnesota
Wild arrive in town for Tuesday night's meeting.


After winning one of their first 13 games, the rejuvenated Leafs
(3-7-5) try for a third straight victory in front of goalie Jonas
Gustavsson, while the Wild again look for their first win at Air Canada
Centre.

Problems in net were a big reason Toronto lost its first eight games, including seven in a row in regulation from Oct. 3-24.


But Gustavsson, a 25-year-old undrafted rookie from Sweden, has
returned from a groin injury and supplanted the struggling Vesa
Toskala, starting six of the Leafs' last seven games while going 3-0-3
with a 2.47 goals-against average.

His best
performance came Saturday against Detroit, as he made 35 saves in a 5-1
win - Toronto's first home victory this season.


"Everybody on the team wants to win and wants to be successful,"
Gustavsson said. "We want the fans to be happy. When we started playing
better, everybody's going to be happy. If we can just continue like
this it's going to be a fun season."

The
win extended the Leafs' point streak to seven games (3-0-4) since a 3-1
loss at Vancouver on Oct. 24. Another big reason for their surge is an
offense that has scored three or more goals five times over that span
after doing it twice in the season's first eight games.


Newcomer Phil Kessel scored his first goal Saturday in his third game
with Toronto after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Kessel
had 36 goals in 70 games for Boston last season before coming over in a
trade.

"When you get solid goaltending it
certainly helps," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "... Obviously having
Phil Kessel in there as well, we just have a different feel."


Toronto remains at least five points behind every other team in its
division, and Minnesota is attempting to dig itself out of a similar
hole in the Northwest.

The Wild (6-10-0)
have won three of four behind goalie Niklas Backstrom, who allowed two
or fewer goals in each of the three victories.


In his lone career appearance against the Leafs, Backstrom stopped 27
shots in a 6-1 win Jan. 27. He has never played in Toronto, where the
Wild are 0-4-0 all-time.

Minnesota's
offense is still searching for a spark, held to three or fewer goals in
14 consecutive games since a 4-3 win over Anaheim on Oct. 6. The Wild
beat the Ducks again Saturday, outshooting them 37-21 and controlling
play in a 3-2 win.

"We played a good 60
minutes together," center Eric Belanger said. "We stayed composed and
did a lot of good things. It's a step in the right direction."


The team is still having problems on the power play, going 0 for 5 for
the second straight game. The Wild haven't converted any of their 14
chances on the man advantage in the last four games, while Toronto has
killed all 16 of its opponents' power plays in the last four.


Minnesota will play without winger Petr Sykora, who suffered a
concussion against Dallas. Defenseman Kim Johnsson could return,
however, after missing seven games with an upper-body injury.

Received 11/09/09 05:30 pm ET


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