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|ATL||0||1||1||(0 - 0)||2|
It hasn't been a particularly successful season thus far for either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Atlanta Thrashers, but both clubs are currently playing quality hockey.
The Maple Leafs seek their fifth victory in six games on Monday as they conclude a three-game road trip against the Thrashers, winners of two of three.
Toronto (13-13-4) finished at the bottom of the Northeast Division last season, and found itself tied with Ottawa for that same position on Dec. 6. Since then, the Maple Leafs have won four of five games to gain a three-point edge on the last-place Senators.
Among the league's highest-scoring clubs with 3.09 goals per game, Toronto has scored 20 times during the hot streak. On Saturday, the team turned in its best offensive performance of the season with a 7-3 victory at Pittsburgh to regroup from Thursday's 8-5 loss at Eastern Conference-leading Boston.
Five players finished with at least two points including Nik Antropov, who scored a goal and added two assists.
"We just worked hard," said Antropov, who has three goals and three assists in the last three games. "We wanted to bounce back from what happened in Boston, and we did it. I thought everybody played excellent (Saturday night), and we got two points."
Atlanta (11-17-4) has won two of its last three games to climb out of the Southeast Division cellar. Saturday's 4-3 overtime victory over Tampa Bay halted a seven-game home losing streak, and also increased the Thrashers' lead over the last-place Lightning to three points.
Starting goalie Kari Lehtonen returned to the net following a 21-game absence due to a back injury. After allowing two scores in the first 8:15, he recovered to finish with 36 saves and win his first appearance since Oct. 30.
"The start wasn't the way I wanted it," Lehtonen said. "I didn't give up. ... It was great to see the guys respond. Hopefully, I can help this team win games."
Atlanta now seeks back-to-back victories for the first time since its season-high five-game winning streak from Nov. 2-14.
Lehtonen has lost four of five career matchups against Toronto.
The Leafs' Vesa Toskala made 20 saves Saturday to win his fourth straight decision, but has been dealing with a groin problem and didn't make the trip to Atlanta, according to a report on the Thrashers' official Web site.
Without Toskala, Toronto coach Ron Wilson is likely to start veteran Curtis Joseph, who surrendered all the goals in the Maple Leafs' 6-3 home loss to the Thrashers on Nov. 25.
Joseph has made just one appearance since, allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Toskala on Thursday. Joseph is 6-5-0 with a 3.26 GAA in 11 career starts versus the Thrashers.
Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk has 10 goals and 11 assists in 24 career games against Toronto, and has recorded 16 (five goals, 11 assists) of his team-leading 33 points over his last 13 contests.
Antropov, meanwhile, has three goals and eight assists during an eight-game point streak against the Thrashers, who have won five of their last eight against the Maple Leafs.
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