(SportsNetwork.com) – The floundering New Jersey Devils will try to salvage
the finale of a three-game road trip when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs
for Thursday’s clash at Air Canada Centre.
The Devils have lost five straight overall (0-3-2) and are 0-2 on their
current swing. Consecutive road losses against the New York Islanders and
Pittsburgh Penguins have dropped New Jersey to 6-9-1 as the visiting team this
New Jersey actually lost more than a game Tuesday in the Steel City, as
forwards Patrik Elias, Stephen Gionta and Jaromir Jagr all left the 1-0 loss
Gionta left early in the first period with a bruised foot, while Elias didn’t
come out for the second stanza after exiting with an undisclosed injury.
Neither player returned.
The biggest blow, however, came late in the second period when Jagr was
drilled with a late hit from Pittsburgh’s Robert Bortuzzo. The 42-year-old
Jagr laid on the ice for several minutes before leaving the ice under his own
Jagr, who leads New Jersey with 15 points this season, is expected to miss
tonight’s game. Bortuzzo, meanwhile, was suspended for two games for his hit.
The Devils already are ranked 25th in the league in scoring and will now try
to produce without Jagr, who has four goals and a team-high 11 assists.
Elias and Gionta also are questionable for tonight’s tilt.
New Jersey was held to fewer than two goals for the fourth time in seven games
on Tuesday, although it did hold a 29-23 edge in shots against the Pens.
Cory Schneider made 22 saves in Tuesday’s loss and he expects to start tonight
for the 25th time in 26 games this season. Schneider is 1-0-2 with a 1.58
goals against average in three lifetime appearances against Toronto.
Toronto, the second-highest scoring team in the NHL behind Tampa Bay, hopes to
take advantage of the hurting Devils tonight.
The Maple Leafs have won two straight, winning those contests over Dallas and
Washington by a combined 11-5 margin. Toronto has won four of its last five
games since an embarrassing 9-2 home loss against Nashville on Nov. 18.
Toronto has scored five or more goals three times since last month’s blowout
loss to the Predators, and the Leafs picked up a 5-3 win Tuesday against the
Stars. The win was the club’s fourth straight triumph at Air Canada Centre,
where Toronto now boasts a 9-6-0 record this season.
The Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead Tuesday and held on for the victory over
Dallas. Nazem Kadri finished with a goal and two assists, Tyler Bozak and Phil
Kessel also scored and Mike Santorelli tallied three helpers for Toronto.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 35-of-38 shots in the win.
“When you score that many goals, its hard mentally to stay sharp,” Bernier
said. “We got the two points and that’s what matters.”
Bernier will get the start tonight. He is 2-1-0 with a lifetime 1.89 GAA
against the Devils.
Tonight’s test is the third tilt of Toronto’s five-game homestand. The Leafs
continue the residency Saturday against Vancouver before closing it Tuesday