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Saturday, October 8, 2011

NHL Ottawa vs Toronto Preview

With Game 2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs 2011-2012 season just a couple of hours away, here are some notes regarding tonight's game versus Ottawa Senators, who opened their own season with a 5-3 loss in Detroit last night (courtesy of mapleleafs.nhl.com):

Season Series: It's the first of six editions of the Battle of Ontario, a series that ended with each team winning three times last season. The Senators have won their last two trips to the Air Canada Centre.

Team Scope:

Senators: You can be sure this was not how Paul MacLean had planned to start his NHL coaching career. In his first game as the boss, MacLean watched in horror as Ottawa fell behind 5-0 in Detroit on Friday night before scoring three times in a 5-3 loss that looked closer than it was.

"It looked a lot like it did when I was on the other bench from this bench," said MacLean, who was hired in Ottawa after six seasons as an assistant to Mike Babcock with the Wings. "For me, I felt comfortable being here at Joe Louis Arena, I've been here before. But we made a few mistakes."

Maple Leafs: Optimism reigns in Toronto, where the Leafs got their season off to a satisfying start by blanking the archrival Montreal Canadiens 2-0 on Thursday night. James Reimer stopped all 32 shots he faced and made goals by Matthew Lombardi and Dion Phaneuf stand up.

Not that coach Ron Wilson is ready to declare his team a powerhouse as it tries to end a playoff drought that dates to 2004. After all, the Leafs started last season by going 4-0-0, then collapsed with 11 losses in their next 12 games.

"We're still going to be a work in progress," he said.

Who's Hot: Reimer is now 21-15-5 since joining the Leafs on Jan. 1. … Newcomer Dave Steckel didn't hit the scoresheet Thursday night, but he more than did his job by going 18-7 in the faceoff circle. Steckel led the NHL in faceoff percentage last season.

Injury report: The Senators are without center Peter Regin (shoulder). Jesse Winchester (shoulder) and Matt Carkner (knee) are on IR. Center Zenon Konopka missed Friday's game with a back problem but hopes to play against the Leafs.

Toronto is still without one of its big offseason signings, center Tim Connolly, who's out with an upper-body injury. The Leafs hope he'll be back in a week or so. Forward Nazem Kadri is out with a knee injury.

Stat Pack: Reimer went 2-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average against the Senators in 2010-11, including a 2-0 shutout on Feb. 19. … The Leafs, among the NHL's worst penalty-killing teams during the past few seasons, held Montreal scoreless in five tries on Thursday and scored a shorthanded goal.

Puck Drop: No one is happier to be in the lineup than Lombardi, whose shorthanded goal on Thursday came in his first NHL game since he sustained a concussion last Oct. 13, when he was playing for Nashville. He couldn't even skate for 10 months and was only cleared for contact last week.

"It just goes to show that if you want it enough and you want to push yourself you can do it," said Lombardi, who played about 11 minutes on Thursday. "You've just got to believe in it."

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