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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, March 28th (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (36-30-8) at Philadelphia Flyers (38-27-7), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - It's been over two weeks since the Toronto Maple Leafs last picked up a point, dropping the club from contender in the Atlantic Division to the outside of the current wild card race.
With their chances at a second straight playoff berth quickly disappearing, the Leafs look to snap a six-game losing streak on Friday night when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Maple Leafs held a three-point edge for second place in their division following a victory over the Los Angeles Kings on March 13, but have failed to notch a victory since. The club's current 0-6-0 drought has knocked it out of the playoff picture as Toronto is one of four clubs tied for the two wild card spots with 80 points.
However, Toronto has the fewest games remaining on its schedule with just eight, while the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings have nine games remaining. Detroit is the current occupier of one of the playoff spots, along with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have 10 games left to play and host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.
The Caps and Red Wings are idle.
Toronto, of course, snapped a franchise-worst seven-year playoff drought last season.
The first five games of the Maple Leafs' losing streak came without No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier, sidelined with a groin injury. He returned to action on Tuesday against the NHL-leading St. Louis Blues and made 44 saves, but the Leafs lost a 5-3 decision.
Carl Gunnarsson and James van Riemsdyk scored third-period goals to pull Toronto to within one before St. Louis iced the game with an empty-net goal. Joffrey Lupul also scored.
"The whole year we've thought we were a playoff team, and we still believe that now," said Lupul. "Realistically we're still right there with these other teams."
The Maple Leafs now try to avoid losing seven in a row for the first time since an 0-6-2 slide from Oct. 28-Nov. 13, 2010 and have a chance to sweep their season set from the Flyers.
Toronto notched a 3-1 victory in Philly on Oct. 2 before recording a 4-3 overtime victory at home on March 8. The Leafs have won four of their last five versus the Flyers overall and two in a row in Philly, where they have still lost eight of their past 12.
Bernier is 2-1-0 with a 3.86 goals against average in three meetings with the Flyers, who try to avoid a third straight loss overall tonight.
Philadelphia won five straight to grab hold of second place in the Metropolitan Division, but has since lost games to the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers to fall into third.
A 3-1 setback to New York on Wednesday moved the Flyers three points behind the Rangers for second place, but Philadelphia does have two games in hand and New York is visiting the Calgary Flames tonight. The Flyers also are three points ahead of the Blue Jackets and Capitals for the third and final automatic playoff berth out of the Metropolitan Division.
Philadelphia failed to solve New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist on Wednesday until Jakub Voracek scored with 1:53 to play. It was Voracek's 100th career goal as he tallied for a third straight game.
Steve Mason made 26 saves as the Flyers dropped their eighth straight game at Madison Square Garden.
"I think we didn't play our game. It's like we didn't have any energy," said Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who is tied for fourth in the NHL with 75 points after notching an assist.
Mason is 2-3-1 with a 3.96 GAA in six career meetings with the Leafs.
03/28 10:46:53 ET