Senators face Leafs seeking to snap five-game skid
Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 12:06 AM
MAPLE LEAFS (26-19-6) at SENATORS (27-20-7)
TV: CBC, RDS (HD)
Toronto 5-4-1; Ottawa 4-5-1
Fifth of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Toronto held on for a 6-5 win over Ottawa the opening weekend of the season, but the Senators have responded by taking the last three matchups. Captain Daniel Alfredsson
leads them with three goals, while Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul each have three goals to pace the Maple Leafs.
There figures to be a sense of urgency for both sides Saturday, as Ottawa looks to snap a five-game losing streak while Toronto attempts to build off a thrilling win over Pittsburgh and, at the very least, maintain its hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Senators hold a three-point lead over the Maple Leafs and are five points clear of the ninth-place Capitals, but they've also played at least three games more than any of their pursuers with the exception of the 10th-place Jets.
It hasn't been an easy sophomore season for goalie James Reimer, who took Toronto by storm during the second half of his rookie campaign and had great expectations placed on his shoulders at the start of training camp. Reimer has battled injury and inconsistency, but turned in a sterling, 25-save shutout performance Wednesday as the Maple Leafs edged the Penguins 1-0 in the home portion of a back-to-back set. The game was scoreless into the third period before Clarke MacArthur tallied with 6:05 remaining. Reimer did the rest.
"I really wanted to get this win," said Reimer, who gets the start against the Senators tonight. "It's been a tough little last couple weeks or whatever. Things really haven't gone my way, I felt like I was playing well and just wasn't getting the bounces. Tonight I got a lot of bounces.
"It was just nice to have everything fall into place and just be on the winning side when the buzzer went."
There have been stretches this season where Ottawa was at hot as any team in the NHL, but the Senators have also dealt with a few skids. They began the season losing five of six and suffered through a five-game losing streak to begin the month of November before really catching fire. Now they've dropped five in a row again after Friday night's 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders, which began a five-game homestand. Despite carrying a lead into the third after Zack Smith
's shorthanded goal with 12.6 ticks left in the second, the Senators couldn't hold it and defenceman Mark Eaton's first score in 121 games decided things 2:35 into the extra period.
"We'll take that one point as a positive," defenceman Matt Carkner
said. "We started to take over in the second (period) and then it started to slip away from us.
"We're working hard and we're trying to do the right things, we just have to have a little bit more of a push here and there, forget about the losses and work on going forward."
Mikhail Grabovski has three goals and five assists during a four-game point streak for the Maple Leafs. MacArthur has four goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. Nikolai Kulemin, the third member of the line, has four assists in the last three games. … All-star defenceman Erik Karlsson
has been a point-per-game player for the Senators since mid-December, totaling six goals and 16 assists over his last 21 games.
Toronto forward Darryl Boyce (back spasms) has missed the last seven games … Ottawa forwards Peter Regin
(shoulder) and Jesse Winchester
(concussion) are on injured reserve.
Lupul played in his 500th NHL game Wednesday against the Penguins. His next point will tie his single-season career high of 53, set in 2005-06 with the Ducks … Craig Anderson
has started 16 consecutive games for the Senators and leads all goaltenders with 49 appearances. He played in 71 games two seasons ago for the Avalanche. He'll push those numbers to 17 straight starts and 50 appearances tonight vs. the Leafs.
Ottawa seems to be at its best this season when playing Toronto — even in the game they lost, the Senators scored all five of their goals in the third period to put a scare in a Leafs squad that seemed to have things readily in hand after 40 minutes.