Maple Leafs and Senators to Battle on HNIC

Just hours from now, the Ottawa Senators will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs in what will be the Leafs’ 22 game of the season, and the Senators’ 24th.

Tonight’s game will be the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Maple Leafs won the first meeting 5-1 on October 9th in Toronto before falling 3-2 at home on November 2nd.

The Maple Leafs have won three of their last five games, including three straight at home. Unfortunately for the Buds, they have also dropped six consecutive games on the road. With a Maple Leafs win, a Senators loss and a Sabres loss tonight, the three teams will be tied for third in the Northeast Division.

Jonas Gustavsson, who will start tonight, has been nothing but impressive during Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s time out. The 26-year-old is 3-5-1 this season and has a goals against average of 2.39 to go along with a .919 save percentage. Gustavsson’s recent success has earned him another start, as he will get the nod tonight against the Senators.

Phil Kessel, who was benched for most of the second period of Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Stars, had an assists in last night’s 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. He leads the team with 10 goals and will be expected to help lead the Maple Leafs to victory tonight. Nikolai Kulemin, meanwhile has four points in his last five games, but has just one goal during that same span. He has 13 points in 21 games this season.

For the Senators, goalie Pascal LeClaire has played extremely well since returning to the lineup, allowing just two goals in his last three games.  He has a save percentage of .938 in those three games.

Mike Brown will be a game-time decision for the Maple Leafs, while Ron Wilson would not confirm that Brett Lebda, who has been a healthy scratch for the last four games, will draw back into the lineup. Colby Armstrong and Dion Phaneuf are still on the injured reserve and will not play.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com.

 

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Northeast Division Power Rankings: Week 2

Carey Price

There were plenty of surprises from Northeast Division teams in the first week of the season, none of them larger than the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are 2-0-0 to start the 2010-2011 season.

Here now are my week one Northeast Division power rankings:

1. Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0)

Last week: 4th

Although they do not lead the Northeast Division, the Canadiens played well in their season opening loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by a comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks to a strong game from Mike Cammalleri. With Cammalleri back in the lineup and strong play from Carey Price, the Canadiens could have a big week.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0-0)

Last week: 5th

The Maple Leafs have had a great start to the 2010-2011 season, winning the first two games of the season. After playing poorly against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, the Leafs rebounded nicely with a great game against the Ottawa Senators. Jonas Gustavsson has yet to get his first start thanks to strong play from J-S Giguere (2-0-0, 1.51 GAA, .935 SV%). The question is, can the Leafs continue playing so well this week?

3. Boston Bruins (1-1-0)

Last week: 2nd

The Bruins played mediocre in week one, with a 1-1-0 record to go along with an even goal differential. After allowing four goals on 36 shots in the season opener, Tuukka Rask sat the second game. Tim Thomas, Rask’s replacement, stopped all 29 shots he faced. The Bruins are hoping that they can receive some strong goaltending from at least one of their goalies, not just this week, but all season.

4. Buffalo Sabres (1-2-0)

Last week: 1st

Ryan Miller (1-2-0, 3.39 GAA, .880 SV%) hasn’t exactly played as expected so far, but the Sabres’ season is still only three games old. With five points in three games (four goals, one assist), Derek Roy has been a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately for the Sabres, Jason Pominville won’t be back immediately, which is bad news for the team.

5. Ottawa Senators (0-2-1)

Last week: 3rd

It is hard to find a bright spot on the Senators roster after a winless start. Pascal LeClaire played well in the first game against Buffalo, allowing just two goals in a 2-1 loss. However, he has since allowed 8 goals on 64 shots. Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Niel are the team’s leading point producers after three games, each with two points. Daniel Alfredsson and company will need to pick up their play if they want to have a good season.

**Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

Maple Leafs Vs. Senators: The Battle of Ontario to Resume Tonight

The Battle of Ontario will resume tonight in Ottawa, as the Senators host the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time this season.

The Maple Leafs will be going for their fifth straight win tonight against the Senators, the last one coming on March 16th. The Leafs took the 2009-2010 season series four games to two. If the Buds win tonight, it will not only mark their fifth straight over the Senators, but it will have been the first time they won two straight games to start the season since 1999.

The Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday night, with goals from Phil Kessel, Tim Brent and Clarke MacArthur. Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 26 of 28 shots, earning him a second consecutive start tonight.

The Senators, however, lost to the Buffalo Sabres 2-1.

Giguere owns a 5-2-1 regular season record with a goals against average of 1.96 against the Senators, while Phil Kessel has at least one goal in each of his last seven games against the Senators and has scored 16 points in his last 11 games against the black, red and gold.

The Senators will once again be without Filip Kuba due to a sore groin, while Sens coach Cory Clouston says Jason Spezza will be a game time decision with a sore groin. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, will have to play without veteran defenceman Jeff Finger and off-season signing Brett Lebda.

The Maple Leafs lines will be the exact same as they were against the Habs, meaning John Mitchell will sit once again.

Coach Ron Wilson said on Thursday night that tonight’s game will “be another energetic affair.”

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

Information from MapleLeafs.NHL.com was used in this post.