Free-falling Leafs head to Nashville

( – The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone from playoff
contenders to nearly matching the longest losing streak in franchise history.

If the Leafs repeat their last performance against the Nashville Predators,
they’ll equal that dreaded streak.

Toronto tries to snap its nine-game slide on Tuesday night when it takes on a
Nashville club tied for the NHL lead in points.

The Maple Leafs are hoping to put a dreaded January behind them as they went
1-11-1 in the month, going 0-8-1 over the final nine contests of the month.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers gave Toronto its first nine-
game slide since Oct. 16-Nov.6, 1985.

The Leafs lost a club-record 10 in a row from Jan. 15-Feb. 8, 1967, though
they did win their last Stanley Cup title less than three months later.

That probably won’t be the case this season as Toronto has fallen 12 points
back of a wild card spot and has been held to a goal or fewer eight times on
its losing streak. That includes four shutout losses.

James Reimer got the start versus the Flyers on Saturday and made 17 saves in
the tough-luck loss.

“My job is not to score goals. My job isn’t to put the puck in the net it’s to
keep it out. We lost 1-0 and I see that as I didn’t do my job well enough,”
Reimer lamented.

Toronto, in fact, scored only 16 goals in 13 games in January, which isn’t
even double what Nashville scored when it faced a hosting Leafs club on Nov.

The Predators got goals from eight different skaters in a 9-2 win, with
Taylor Beck scoring twice and notching an assist. Shea Weber added three
helpers and Pekka Rinne made 29 saves.

That was Nashville’s second straight win over Toronto and it is 3-2-0 all-time
at home versus the Leafs.

Jonathan Bernier started that game and gave up three goals on 12 shots before
getting pulled after the first period. Reimer didn’t fare much better, blitzed
for six goals on 25 shots faced.

Bernier will start tonight and is still a solid 8-3-0 versus the Predators
with a 2.14 goals against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts in 11

Rinne is currently out with a lower-body injury, meaning Carter Hutton is
likely to face the Leafs for the first time in his career tonight.

Hutton is coming off a 21-save shutout in a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh
Penguins on Sunday. It was the second whitewash of his career.

The Predators got goals from four different players to snap their two-game
skid. Roman Josi and Gabriel Bourque scored in the first period, while Eric
Nystrom and Mike Fisher added insurance goals later in the game.

“It was a real good first and a real good third,” Predators coach Peter
Laviolette said.

Star rookie Filip Forsberg tallied two assists for Nashville and he leads the
club with 17 goals and 44 points.

Nashville, which will play three straight and seven of its next eight at home,
is tied with Anaheim for the NHL points lead with 70, though that is only two
points ahead of second-place St. Louis in the Central Division.