Fast start imperative

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

For the past two days, coach Paul Maurice has been campaigning for home fans to try and lift his team instead of pushing them under a bus.

By the 10-minute mark of the tonight's first period, he'll be able to see and hear if his lobbying has been successful.

"That (responsibility) is on us, not on the fans," he said of getting off to a fast start against the Florida Panthers. "We have to give them a reason. We can sit back and say we don't like (the recent booing), but the other side of it (adulation) is good, maybe too much so."

GOALIE SHUFFLE CONTINUES?

On Monday night, Andrew Raycroft came about 20 minutes away from putting Maurice in a goaltending quandry. But at least one bad goal and the team collapse against Buffalo will likely see Vesa Toskala back in tonight.

In his two previous games, Toskala has faced 91 combined shots and allowed 12 goals against Carolina and Pittsburgh. Toskala has faced the Panthers only once, allowing just one goal.

With the NHL schedule almost exclusively inter-conference, most of these Eastern teams are new to the former San Jose Shark. But he hasn't been doing any in-depth study of his 15 new opposing teams.

"For a goalie, there's not that much difference compared to a defenceman or forward," Toskala said. "Of course I'm aware of their best players, but I'm in on the team meetings we have before every game."

JOKINEN NOT FOOLIN' AROUND

Another Scandinavian will reach a milestone tonight at the ACC, but for a change it's not Mats Sundin.

Panthers star Olli Jokinen needs a point to pass the retired Scott Mellanby for the franchise lead of 355 and just by stepping on the ice, he'll break ex-Leaf Robert Svehla's consecutive games streak of 300.

SUNNY OUTLOOK

To become a legit playoff threat, the Panthers will have to solve teams such as the Leafs, while Toronto has dined well on the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning since the two clubs came into the NHL in the 1990s.

Heading into tonight, the Leafs have a record of 57-22-9-1 against those clubs.


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