(AP) — Strong recent road play has made the playoffs an attainable goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Another meeting with the New York Islanders may keep the Maple Leafs rolling.
Toronto looks to defeat the Islanders for the third time in a month Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Trying to end a five-year playoff drought, the Maple Leafs (29-28-9) are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, five points behind eighth-place Buffalo.
Toronto has become a serious contender in the chase due to a 10-3-4 stretch, which includes a 5-1-1 record on the road. However, the team is trying to regain momentum after falling 5-3 at home to Chicago on Saturday.
“Everyone is upbeat and we feel good about the game in Long Island,” captain Dion Phaneuf told the team’s official website. “They’re big points. All of them, division, conference games they’re big points.”
Collecting points hasn’t been a problem against the Islanders (25-32-10), as the Leafs are 2-0-1 in the season series. They won 2-1 at home Feb. 22, and 5-3 at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 8.
Phil Kessel will also seek to regain his momentum. Toronto’s leader with 27 goals, Kessel has failed to register a point for two games after getting eight goals and five assists in his previous eight.
This matchup may be coming at the right time for the All-Star. Kessel has nine goals and four assists over his last 11 meetings with New York, and scored the eventual winner with 4:41 to play in the Feb. 22 matchup.
James Reimer stopped 59 of 63 shots to earn both of last month’s wins over the Islanders. He’s expected to be in net again, despite getting pulled Saturday after allowing five goals on 19 shots through two periods versus the Blackhawks.
“It sucks to lose, it sucks to get pulled but you just have to forget about it,” Reimer said. “When I got pulled in hindsight you learn just as much from that as you do when you win. You learn a lot about your play, how you handled yourself and what you can do better.”
The Islanders, last in the Atlantic Division, are 2-2-3 in their last seven games, with each of those losses coming by one goal. They fell 3-2 in a shootout to New Jersey on Sunday.
“There are times where you’re going to get frustrated,” center Frans Nielsen said. “You have to hold your head high and not get frustrated.”
Matt Moulson remains the team leader with 28 goals, but has only one in his last six games and none in his last three. The left wing, who has found the back of the net in each of this season’s three meetings with Toronto, needs two goals to match the career high he set last season.
Updated March 8, 2011
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