Leafs ride luck into Atlanta

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

Not since October of 2003 have the Maple Leafs lost to the Atlanta Thrashers, recording eight consecutive wins in a rare rivalry that does not involve division foes.

That means little this morning to the Leafs, who are in Atlanta tonight to meet the Thrashers in the first match of a trip that ends Saturday night in Montreal.

"They're rolling and it's going to be a tough test," Matt Stajan said yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "It's nice to think that we have beaten them like that, but I don't think it really matters."

The Leafs have lost three of four but got some good news when defenceman Bryan McCabe practised full-out with teammates. McCabe twisted his ankle in a loss to the Boston Bruins and though he suffered a slight sprain, will not miss any time.

"It's nothing a little tape won't fix and I'll deal with it," McCabe said. "It did not swell up over night."

The Thrashers, led by Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk, have settled nicely atop the Southeast Division and with 34 points, have four more than Toronto. Hossa and Kovalchuk have contributed nine and eight power-play goals respectively.

But there are some factors riding in the favour of the Leafs, who spent the majority of time working on the power play yesterday after going 1-for-10 in a pair of losses to the Bruins.

Toronto has become a potent road club, winning seven times away from the Air Canada Centre and scoring 51 goals, which was second in the NHL before last night's games. In Pat Quinn's final season as coach, the team had a total of 15 road victories.

At home, the Leafs are an ordinary 6-6-2.

"I have always thought that if you are going to be good somewhere, you have to be good on the road to have a chance to be a good playoff team," coach Paul Maurice said. "I'm glad to this point we have shown some confidence on the road. We play a slightly simpler game than we do at home."

And although the Leafs were sixth in the NHL with a man-advantage at 19.7%, Maurice wanted to give more than just the usual customers looks on power-play drills yesterday.

"It's not like hitting practice in baseball," said Darcy Tucker, whose 11 power-play goals led the league. "The power play is mostly intensity and you have to let your skill take over, but you have to have that intensity."


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