Leafs aim to gather momentum

Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonas Gustavsson and Frederik Sjostromcelebrate their win against the...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonas Gustavsson and Frederik Sjostromcelebrate their win against the Nashville Predators. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:17 PM ET

TORONTO - Now that the Maple Leafs have finally put a spike in their first serious losing streak, the success of the rest of the season depends on their ability to do the reverse.

The past few years have been marred by multiple lengthy slumps that leave the team too much to do when the points seem to mean more toward the end of the season. The recently completed eight-game slide wasn’t as bad as some we’ve seen, but the damage has been done.

In terms of length, it matched the one the Leafs opened last season with and was encroaching on some of the worst in team history.

But twice the team lost in a shootout and three other times the Leafs ran into hot goaltenders, who pitched a shutout.

On the other hand, the four-game win streak to start the season was longer than anything the Leafs could put together in 2009-10. Twice they managed three game win streaks and two more times won four of five last season, but none of those runs were a true hot streak.

With the New Jersey Devils up next on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre before a trip to Montreal for a Saturday night game against the Habs, gathering momentum is the next step in righting the ship.

Meanwhile, the team will have to do so with Jonas Gustavsson as the No. 1 goalie for at least a handful of games as J-S Giguere recovers from what the team announced Wednesday is a minor groin strain.

Giguere had to leave with 13:10 remaining in Tuesday’s 5-4 win over Nashville and after being evaluated by doctors will be sidelined for the next week or two.

Gustavsson came on in relief and made a couple of huge saves against the Nashville Predators to preserve the win.

“It’s 1 and 1-A,” coach Ron Wilson said of the team’s goaltending depth chart. “We’ve gone a little bit more with Jiggy, but I see no reason why Jonas can’t establish himself here.”

As for Gustavsson, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to establish himself as a legit NHL starter.

“You can’t think too much or you go crazy,” Gustavsson said. “I’m looking forward to the game (Thursday) and we’ll see what happens.

“Of course, you want to play but I don’t want Jiggy to be out of the lineup that long either.”

MacArthur spark

With a three-assist night on Tuesday, Clarke MacArthur increased his team scoring lead to 16 points (seven goals, nine assists.)

As you’ve heard often by now, the book on MacArthur is his scoring touch starts to disappear once the snow starts to fly.

MacArthur isn’t buying it however as he already feels more comfortable than he did in previous stints with Buffalo and Atlanta.

“I just think I have the confidence,” said MacArthur, who is almost half way to the career high 35 points he recorded last season. “I’m getting an opportunity to play and I’m playing with good linemates. The last three years I’ve been fighting confidence the whole year playing second line then third or fourth line.

“By the end of the season you don’t even know what kind of a player you are. If you can stay on the top lines you can stay consistent and build confidence.”

Catching Kadri

Two games into his promotion to the NHL from the Marlies, Nazem Kadri’s play has gravitated more to steady than spectacular, which is just fine by the Leafs.

After an over-hyped and under-achieving pre-season, the London, Ont. native has settled in nicely.

Kadri recorded his first career NHL point on Tuesday while logging a healthy 19 minutes and 54 seconds. Wilson shuffled the lines in-game and had Kadri on a line with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, a trio the rookie feels plays to his strengths.

Perhaps more importantly, he is plus-one despite the fact the team has given up nine goals in the two games he has played.

“I’ve gotten my feet wet a little bit and I’m playing with some pretty good players so it’s a lot easier,” Kadri said Wednesday, after spending 20 minutes after practice working on his shot. “My game is based on speed and using my feet so it’s a good match. When I start to struggle, it’s when I don’t move my feet as much.”


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