TORONTO - Playing in back-to-back games is never easy but it was made a little less strenuous for the Maple Leafs after they were given Tuesday morning off as a reward for a job well done against the New York Rangers on Monday night.
The Leafs didn’t have to hit the Air Canada Centre ice for their traditional morning skate after they rebounded from two consecutive one-sided losses to the Boston Bruins with an impressive 4-2 victory over the red-hot Rangers at Madison Square Garden. New York had won five straight and 12 of its past 14 games before being defeated by Toronto.
It was the Leafs second victory of the season in the Big Apple, making Toronto the only team in the league this year to get a regulation win in New York. But, more importantly, the Leafs avoided their first three-game stretch of the season without recording at least a point.
“It was big to stop this right now,” winger Joffrey Lupul said of the losing skid. “We knew when we lost to Boston it wasn’t going to be easy coming in here.”
Now the Leafs (15-10-2) will see if they can keep up their new-found momentum when they host the sputtering New Jersey Devils (12-12-1) tonight.
Toronto hasn’t been great at home recently, going 1-4-1 in their past six games at the ACC, but perhaps playing the Devils, who have lost four consecutive games and are wrapping up a four-game road trip, can change all that.
The last time these two teams met, Nov. 2, Lupul scored three goals in the second period, his first hat trick as a Leaf and the first time a Toronto player has scored three times in one period since Wendel Clark did it on Nov. 9, 1996, against the Edmonton Oilers.
The Leafs will most likely ice the same team as they did against the Rangers, though James Reimer will probably get the start ahead of Jonas Gustavsson, who put in an excellent 30-save performance against New York.
Mikhail Grabovski was an unexpected scratch on Monday night after he left New York to be home for the pending delivery of his second child, so don’t expect him to play tonight.