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MAPLE LEAFS (7-2-1) at SENATORS (6-5-0)
TV: SNET-Ontario, SNET-East, TVA Sports
LAST 10: Toronto 7-2-1, Ottawa 5-5-0
Season Series: This is second of six meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. In their first meeting, Toronto held on for a 6-5 win at home behind a Phil Kessel hat trick on Oct. 8.
Big Story: Toronto is off to a torrid start, but much of the Leafs' success has come in the comfort of the Air Canada Centre, where they are 5-0-1. The Senators have won five in a row, two of them on goals in the final five seconds and one after a three-goal comeback Saturday afternoon in New York.
Senators: If management hasn't yet considered handing out pacemakers to its season-ticket holders, it might reconsider after Saturday's stunner against the New York Rangers. The Senators overcame a 4-1 deficit in the final 11 minutes of regulation -- Jason Spezza scored twice and Milan Michalek tied it with his seventh of the season to send the game to overtime. Michalek then scored the only goal of the shootout for a stunning 5-4 win.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the triumph over the Rangers marked only the second time in franchise history that the Senators rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to win.
Coach Paul MacLean has been encouraged by the Senators' resilience during their five-game winning streak, which followed a 1-5-0 start.
"What we did at home is one thing," MacLean said. "Being down by three goals late, showing some resilience coming back and getting two points, doing it on the road, those are the kind of building blocks we can lean on."
Maple Leafs: With his league-best 10 goals so far this season, Phil Kessel has been the toast of Toronto. But the Leafs aren't first in the Northeast Division merely because of Kessel's contributions. Captain Dion Phaneuf had two assists in Saturday's win, giving him nine for the season. Afterwards, coach Ron Wilson reserved his post-game compliments for his captain, not Kessel.
"Personally, I think by a country mile he's the best defenceman in the league," Wilson said. "It's not even close right now. His numbers show that -- his plus-minus, we chart scoring chances and his numbers are off the chart there. I think he's comfortable in his own skin, he's comfortable being the captain and he's healthy."
Toronto needs to keep building on its momentum, especially away from home, where they are just 2-2-0. Power-play conversion has been a focus in practice, but even after going 2-2 on power-play chances Saturday night the Leafs are still converting a paltry 17 per cent of chances.
"The most important thing is that we were able to win the faceoffs," Wilson said of the conversions. "We were able to get going real quick — get it down to the front of the net and make things happen … Tonight it looked really good."
Who's Hot: Spezza has been huge in Ottawa's recent run, with at least a point in the last six games and a goal in five of six … With all eyes on Kessel, winger Clarke MacArthur could be a difference-maker for the Leafs. He's got goals in back-to-back consecutive games.
Injury Report: Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson left Saturday's game with a head injury, and Alex Auld sat out for an undisclosed reason. MacLean said Alfredsson, who won't play tonight, is "still being evaluated" after taking an elbow to the head from the Rangers' Wojtek Wolski during Saturday's game.
Stat Pack: With 10 goals through 10 games, Kessel is on pace for 82 over a full season. His career high is 36 with Boston two years ago. He has 32 and 30 in his two seasons with the Leafs. His 18 points are nearly 30 percent of his 2010-11 total of 64.
Puck Drop: Goaltender Robin Lehner, who was summoned from Binghamton (AHL) on Saturday to replace the injured Auld, will make his first 'Battle of Ontario' start tonight (he did backstop Ottawa to an overtime win over Toronto in the rookie tournament in Oshawa, Ont., back in September). With the Senators playing four games in six nights, MacLean is electing to give starter Craig Anderson a break in this one ... Bobby Butler, who's fully recovered from a groin injury suffered three weeks ago, subs in for Alfredsson this evening ... Nikita Filatov was recalled from Binghamton today and was a late addition to the lineup against the Leafs in favour of Zenon Konopka ... Fewer than 300 tickets remain for tonight's game.
— With files from Rob Brodie
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