Devils Shuffle Line, Hope For Offense Vs. Leafs
TORONTO (AP) – The Toronto Maple Leafs used an impressive power-play performance to end a lengthy losing streak.
The New Jersey Devils’ last effort was anything but spectacular.
Looking for their first back-to-back victories since opening the season with four wins, the Maple Leafs on Thursday night host a Devils team that has retooled its lines as it seeks more offense.
Toronto (6-8-3) fell behind by three in the opening 11:43 on Tuesday, but rallied to defeat Nashville 5-4 and snap an eight-game slide. Kris Versteeg had two power-play goals in a 59-second span of the second period, when the Maple Leafs scored four times with the man advantage.
“There was a feeling we weren’t done yet,” said defenseman Luke Schenn, who scored his first goal of the season in the first.
Toronto’s four power-play goals were its most since it had five in a 6-3 win at Anaheim on Oct. 26, 2009.
“Strange game to say the least,” coach Ron Wilson said following his team’s first victory in three weeks. “I’m glad we won. It’s one of those kinds of games that when you look back on it, hopefully it puts an abrupt stop to the slide we’ve been in. We can use it for momentum.”
Devils coach John MacLean thought his team had built some up with consecutive four-goal performances, but New Jersey (5-11-2) was shut out for the third time in six games Monday, 3-0 at Boston.
“When we get our chances, we have to bury them,” MacLean said. “They outmuscled us around the net. It’s unacceptable.”
MacLean’s team has the fewest goals in the NHL with 33, and the coach reshuffled his forward units at practice Tuesday. He moved Travis Zajac to center on a line with Brian Rolston and David Clarkson, while Dainius Zubrus will skate in between Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Vasyunov.
“When you’re losing, that’s what happens,” Kovalchuk, who has just four goals, told the Devils’ official website. “The coach tries to find some chemistry between guys and he changed some lines around. You just have to stick with it and play as hard as you can.”
The Devils, who have scored one goal while losing their last two at Air Canada Centre, will face a Maple Leafs team that has yielded 28 goals in seven contests this month.
Jonas Gustavsson, 2-3-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average, is expected to make his first home start against the Devils after Jean-Sebastien Giguere left in the third period Tuesday with a groin injury. Giguere is expected to miss one to two weeks.
Gustavsson went 0-1-0 with a 4.60 GAA in two starts at New Jersey last season.
Martin Brodeur, 3-0-0 with a 1.30 GAA in his last three games in Toronto, will likely be in net for the Devils. He has turned away 42 of 48 shots in two games since missing two with a bruised elbow.
Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, who has a team-best eight goals, has three points in his last two games following a seven-game scoring drought.
He recorded two goals and two assists versus New Jersey last season.
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