NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, March 25th
(All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (48-16-7) at Toronto Maple Leafs (36-29-8), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - With a playoff spot hanging in the balance, the Toronto
Maple Leafs desperately need to put an end to their worst drought of the
Toronto hopes to end a string of five straight losses when it hosts the
playoff-bound St. Louis Blues in Tuesday's battle at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs have matched their longest losing streak of the season, but
while the club was able to record two points during an 0-3-2 stretch from Nov.
25-Dec. 3, the current slide has come with five consecutive regulation
As a result, Toronto enters Tuesday tied with Detroit for the Eastern
Conference's two wild card spots. Meanwhile, Washington is just one point
behind and Columbus is a mere two points in back of the Leafs and Red Wings.
All four teams play this evening, with Detroit visiting Columbus and the
Capitals hosting Los Angeles.
Making matters worse for Toronto, the club only has nine games left on its
regular season schedule. That gives Detroit and the Blue Jackets two games in
hand over the Leafs, while Washington has one.
The Maple Leafs also have fallen seven points behind Montreal and Tampa Bay,
who are tied for the last two of the Atlantic Division's three automatic
The Blues, meanwhile, have already clinched a playoff spot out West and they
enter Tuesday with a six-point lead over Chicago for the Central Division
title. St. Louis also is two ahead of San Jose for the conference lead and
trails Boston by one point for the best record in the NHL.
Toronto hopes to have No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier back from a groin
injury tonight. All five of the club's losses on its current skid have come
with backup James Reimer as the starter, but Bernier has been skating and
figures to be a game-time decision for Tuesday.
"It's too early to say if I'm coming back (Tuesday)," Bernier said. "I don't
want to rush and be out another four or five days."
Reimer was pulled from Sunday's 3-2 loss in New Jersey after allowing three
goals on 10 shots. Drew MacIntyre entered the game early in the second period
and made 14 saves the rest of the way.
MacIntyre, a 30-year-old journeyman, made his fifth NHL appearance and first
since Nov. 25, 2011.
Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak supplied the goals for the Maple Leafs, who last
dropped six in a row from Feb. 18-29, 2012.
"We have to come together as a team and battle," Bozak said.
Toronto hopes to get back on track with a stretch of home games coming up. The
Leafs will play five of their next six as the host before ending the regular
season on a three-game road trip.
The Leafs are 22-13-1 at home this season and 14-16-7 on the road.
In addition to Bernier, Toronto also could get defenseman Paul Ranger back
tonight. Ranger has missed the last two games with a neck injury.
St. Louis will try to earn a split of a four-game road trip on Tuesday. The
Blues opened the swing with losses in Chicago and Philadelphia before notching
a 1-0 win Sunday at Pittsburgh.
Brian Elliott stopped all 33 shots he faced as St. Louis turned in a textbook
defensive effort to down the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center. Elliott's
whitewash was his fourth of the season and his 16th with the franchise, tying
him with Hall of Fame netminder Glenn Hall for second on the club's all-time
"I saw a lot [of shots]. Obviously, the ones I didn't, the guys were blocking
and made big sacrifices in front of me," Elliott said.
David Backes recorded the lone score of the contest for the Blues, who won for
the ninth time in 12 March outings.
St. Louis is 23-11-3 as the visiting team this season.
The Blues posted a 6-3 home win against Toronto on Dec. 12, giving the Blues a
4-0-2 record in the last six games of this series. St. Louis had won six
straight in Toronto before the Leafs notched a 6-5 shootout win in the last
meeting at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 6, 2011.
Ryan Miller will resume his starting role in net for St. Louis on Tuesday. He
is 7-2-1 with a 2.03 goals against average since joining the Blues before the
03/25 10:51:50 ET