Flames Ready To Burn Leafs?
GAME: Calgary Flames (22-13-3-3) at Toronto Maple Leafs (23-10-8-3).
TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
By compiling the longest point streak by any NHL team this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs reached the top of the Eastern Conference.
They haven't looked much like an elite team since. '
Still leading the East, the Maple Leafs will try to avoid a third straight defeat when they take on the Calgary Flames in the finale of a four-game homestand.
Toronto went 14-0-1-1 from Nov. 22-Dec. 26 to tie the best point streak in the NHL since the 1999-2000 season, when points were first awarded for overtime losses. However, the Leafs have won just twice in eight games since (2-4-2), and have managed only one goal in losing their last two contests.
Two days after an embarrassing 7-1 loss to Ottawa, the Leafs lost 1-0 to New Jersey on Saturday. Both defeats came at the Air Canada Centre, where the Maple Leafs had been unbeaten in regulation in their previous 12 games (10-0-1-1).
"We haven't had a lot of practices in the last while," Leafs coach Pat Quinn told the Toronto Sun. "And sometimes, when you play two pretty good checking teams as we have, unless your team game is sharp, you'll have trouble winning."
The bright spot in Saturday's loss was the return of No. 1 goaltender Ed Belfour, who made 32 saves after sitting out the previous three games with a strained groin.
Belfour may be in net again to face a Calgary team that appears to be getting on track offensively.
The Flames have 13 goals in their last four games, including three wins, following a seven-game stretch during which they scored just 10 times.
Jarome Iginla had two goals and an assist in Saturday's 4-2 win over Florida, and was named the NHL's offensive player of the week Monday. He had five goals and five assists in four games last week.
Calgary is the league's most improved club at the halfway point, 13 points ahead of its total through 41 games last season.
"We have been young and we are all one year older. We are more mature," Iginla said. "We are more comfortable in the final minute of a game holding onto a lead. We are more comfortable battling back in the third period trying to get a goal."
Leafs winger Gary Roberts, who spent his first 10 NHL seasons with Calgary, will be playing in his 1,000th game. There will be a pregame ceremony at Air Canada Centre to honor the achievement and Roberts will take the opening faceoff against his former team.
STANDINGS: Flames - 50 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Northwest Division. Maple Leafs - 57 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Iginla, 17 goals, 20 assists and 37 points; Krzysztof Oliwa, 115 PIM. Maple Leafs - Roberts and Mats Sundin, 16 goals; Sundin, 27 assists and 43 points; Tie Domi and Wade Belak, 81 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 11): Flames - Power play: 14.4 percent (26 for 180), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.6 percent (148 for 177), 19th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 18.6 percent (38 for 204), 8th. Penalty killing: 85.4 percent (182 for 213), 12th.
GOALTENDERS: Flames - Jamie McLennan (11-8-1, 4 SO, 1.91 GAA); Dany Sabourin (0-3-0, 3.55). Maple Leafs - Belfour (18-12-5, 4, 2.25); Trevor Kidd (3-1-1, 1, 2.78).
SEASON SERIES: Flames, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 18; Flames, 3-2, OT. At Calgary, Alberta, Toni Lydman scored the game-winner 1:24 into overtime off a rebound after Belfour made a kick save on Steven Reinprecht's backhand shot.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flames - 10-6-0-2 on the road; Maple Leafs - 11-4-2-2 at home.