Canucks hope to continue dominance over Leafs
MAPLE LEAFS (12-15-4) at CANUCKS (17-8-4)
TV: CBC (HD), NHLN-US (HD)
Toronto 4-5-1; Vancouver 7-2-1
This is the second and final meeting of the season between these Canadian rivals. Vancouver won 5-3 in Toronto on Nov. 13 as Ryan Kesler
scored twice and Mason Raymond
added the decisive goal with 6:24 remaining in the third period.
The continued groin problems of Jean-Sebastien Giguere have led to increased playing time for second-year goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who is expected to start at least the next two games after Giguere aggravated a previous injury Thursday in Calgary. Gustavsson is 4-8-2 this season with a 2.91 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. Toronto recalled James Reimer from the AHL to back him up.
This is the finale of a three-game road trip through western Canada for Toronto. Thursday's game in Calgary marked the return of Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf to play against the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2003 Entry Draft. Phaneuf spent four-plus seasons with the Flames before being traded last season and was plus-1 in 22:29 of ice time in this game, which the Leafs lost 5-2, giving up three goals in a 57-second span of the second period.
"They finished their scoring chances and we weren't very good for two periods," coach Ron Wilson said. "They beat us in races to pretty much every puck -- in our zone and their zone, too."
Each of Vancouver's previous five games have been decided by a single goal, and the Canucks have won three of them -- including Wednesday's 3-2 overtime decision over the Blue Jackets in which all of the offensive heroics came courtesy of Kesler. He opened the scoring with 22.9 seconds left in the first period, gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead midway through the second and completed his first career hat trick 3:30 into the extra period.
"It just felt good to get it off my back," said Kesler, who had 12 career multi-goal games. "I was sniffing for a while to get that third one, not only this year but last year."
Mikhail Grabovski has goals in five of his last six games for the Maple Leafs. Kris Versteeg has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. … Daniel Sedin
has 4 goals and 9 assists during a nine-game points streak for the Canucks. Henrik Sedin
has 2 goals and 4 assists during a four-game points streak. Kesler has 5 goals and 2 assists over his last four games.
Toronto has been without forwards Mike Brown (broken finger) and Jay Rosehill (broken nose) and defenseman Mike Komisarek (finger). … Vancouver is missing Raymond (broken thumb) and fellow forwards Guillaume Desbiens
(broken hand), Rick Rypien
(personal) and Peter Schaefer (undisclosed) and defenseman Sami Salo
(Achilles). Christian Ehrhoff
hopes to return from a concussion suffered last weekend.
The next goal by Clarke MacArthur will give the Maple Leafs five players with at least 10 goals -- Phil Kessel leads the team with 12, while Grabovski, Versteeg and Nikolai Kulemin have 10 apiece. But the secondary scoring has been lacking -- after that it drops off to Tyler Bozak, who has 4 goals. … The Canucks have the NHL's top-ranked power play, clicking at 24.8 percent. They're also sixth on the penalty kill at 84.6 percent.
Vancouver is 7-1-1 over its last nine games and hasn't lost to Toronto since Nov. 24, 2003, a span of 2,577 days.
"We don't want to force things too much," goalie Roberto Luongo
said in looking ahead to Saturday's game. "We know we have a good offensive team and can score some goals, but sometimes if you try to force things to might open up things on the back end."