Wild-Maple Leafs Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 15, 2013
The Toronto Maple Leafs aren't showing signs of slowing down, but they could find things a bit more difficult against the defensive-minded Minnesota Wild. Red-hot Joffrey Lupul hopes to extend his outstanding stretch and help Toronto continue its best start in 20 years Tuesday night against the visiting Minnesota Wild. Although they faced four different one-goal deficits, the Maple Leafs (5-1-0) extended their strong start with Saturday's 6-5 victory over Edmonton. Lupul notched his second goal of the game to tie the score with 31 seconds left in regulation before Dave Bolland provided the game-winner in overtime. "We got a lot of experience in here, a lot of character players,'' said James van Riemsdyk, who also scored twice. "We don't ever quit and that's a huge attribute to have. ... We never seem to stop playing and that's key.'' With Lupul and van Riemsdyk leading the way with five goals apiece, Toronto ranks second in the NHL with 22 goals. The Maple Leafs have won their last two games by a 10-5 margin despite getting outshot 67-52. Lupul, one of the league's top playmakers with eight points, has scored in four straight games - second only to his career-best six-game run last March. The left wing also has four goals and seven points in his last six meetings with the Wild (3-1-2). Toronto, however, might have a tough time generating clean looks as it tries to continue its best start opening the 1993-94 season with 10 victories. Following a 2-1 victory over winless Buffalo on Monday, Minnesota is limiting opponents to a league-low 21.7 shots per game and has allowed three goals on 57 shots while winning its last three. "There were many moments in the game where I don't feel that our execution was at its best, but the bottom line is we did enough good things to win this hockey game,'' said coach Mike Yeo, whose club seeks its first four-game winning streak since a seven-game run March 14-27. "I thought special teams was critical.'' The Wild held an opponent scoreless on the power play for the first time in six games, while converting one of their three chances with the man advantage. Paced by Zach Parise's three power-play tallies, they rank among the NHL leaders with a 30.8 power-play percentage. The Maple Leafs, though, have been stingy in those situations by killing 20 of 22 penalties. Jonathan Bernier has started the past three games between the pipes for Toronto, though he might give way to James Reimer after allowing five goals in 31 shots against the Oilers. Reimer, who has yielded seven goals in his two starts, hasn't played since getting pulled in the second period of a 5-4 shootout win over Ottawa on Oct. 5. Minnesota's Josh Harding is 3-1-0 with a 1.06 goals-against average after stopping 22 of 23 shots against the Sabres, but it's unclear who will get the start in the second of back-to-back games Tuesday. If Niklas Backstrom isn't ready to return from a knee injury, Darcy Kuemper could get the nod. Teammate Jason Pominville, who had the go-ahead goal against his former team Monday, has six goals and 13 points in his last 11 meetings with the Maple Leafs. Toronto, however, has won five of six home meetings and seven of 10 overall.
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