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In five-plus seasons with the New York Islanders, Jason Blake went from being a fourth-line player to one of the league's top goal scorers. His first season in Toronto finds him somewhere in the middle.
Blake returns to Nassau Coliseum for the first time as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
When the Islanders acquired Blake from Los Angeles on Jan. 3, 2001 for a conditional draft pick, they speedy left wing had scored only seven goals in his first 82 NHL games.
Used primarily on a checking line, Blake had eight goals and 10 assists in 82 games for New York in 2001-02. His energetic play earned him more ice time and he responded with 25 goals the following season.
After scoring 22 goals in 2003-04, Blake became a fixture on the Islanders' top line and power-play unit in 2005-06 and totaled 28 goals and 57 points. Setting career highs last season with 40 goals and 69 points put Blake in line for a lucrative contract on the free-agent market and the Maple Leafs signed the now 34-year-old to a five-year, $20 million contract on July 1.
Blake has struggled to match last season's production for Toronto, managing only five goals in his first 36 games. He does, however, have 21 assists, making him the team's fourth-leading scorer.
Always a fan favorite on Long Island for his tireless work ethic, Blake announced on Oct. 8 that he has a rare form of leukemia that puts him in no immediate danger and is highly treatable. Blake has not missed any playing time because of the condition and is one of eight Maple Leafs to appear in every game this season.
Despite Blake's lack of goal scoring, offense hasn't been a problem for Toronto (15-14-7), which ranks among the league leaders with 107 goals.
Pavel Kubina's power-play goal 34 seconds into overtime helped the Maple Leafs snap a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Florida on Saturday.
Toronto's previous two losses were by one goal, and the Leafs allowed a goal in the last minute of regulation in each game.
"It was tough those two games, but we still were playing good hockey," Kubina said.
This will be sixth stop on a seven-game road trip for the Maple Leafs, who close the trip Thursday against Philadelphia.
Vesa Toskala has started 12 straight games in net for Toronto, but has never faced the Islanders.
Andrew Raycroft stopped 30 shots and Blake had one assist in the Leafs' 8-1 home win over New York on Oct. 11.
Richard Park's goal with 1:17 left in overtime gave the Islanders a 3-2 victory over Washington on Saturday and consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 16 and 19.
Miroslav Satan and captain Bill Guerin also scored for the Islanders (17-15-2), who haven't won three in a row since a season-best four-game run from Nov. 1-10.
Offense remains a concern for New York, which has scored a league-low 79 goals. The Islanders, though, have scored three goals or more in five of their past seven games.
"We knew going in that we weren't going to blow anybody out 6-1 or 5-3," coach Ted Nolan said. "We know that with our goaltending, we'll be in many games."
Toronto is 7-1-3 in its last 11 meetings with the Islanders.