Leafs will be in tough vs. Rangers

Toronto Maple Leafs center Tim Connolly (12) pokes the puck past New York Rangers goalie Henrik...

Toronto Maple Leafs center Tim Connolly (12) pokes the puck past New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) and left wing Ruslan Fedotenko (26) to score in the second period of their NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York December 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Dave Hilson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:44 PM ET

Will the Maple Leafs be able to keep the home fires burning when they play host to the New York Rangers on Saturday night?

It certainly would be a nice way to start their five-game stand at the Air Canada Centre after seeing their season-high four-game winning streak come to an end in Buffalo on Friday night against the Sabres.

All four of Torontos consecutive wins came at the ACC.

The Leafs (22-16-5) didnt skate on Saturday morning after a late night in Buffalo, with only the injured Tyler Bozak and healthy scratches Jake Gardiner and Jay Rosehill taking to the ACC ice. James Reimer manned the net for them. None of the players were available to the media but look for Gardiner and Rosehill to be scratches again, while Reimer is likely to play backup to Jonas Gustavsson (13-8-0) who, after settling in, had a very strong outing against the Sabres.

So far this season the Maple Leafs have had the number of the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers (27-10-4), winning both contests by 4-2 scores with Gustavsson in net. But the Rangers, coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night that ended a five-game winning streak, are one of the hottest teams in the league and wont easily be pushed aside.

The Rangers, who have won 10 of 12 games and are 3-0-2 in their previous five trips to Toronto, will turn to backup Martin Biron (8-2-0) between the pipes after Hernik Lundqvist started the previous three games.

Weve built a pretty good rivalry with the Leafs over the past couple of years that Ive been here, Biron said after an optional morning skate for the Rangers. Theyve come out really hard against us this year. Its very important for us and for me to get a good start because thats going to be dictating game. They have a lot of speed everywhere on the ice. They are a very skilled group of forwards and defencemen, and they shoot the puck a lot.

We didnt feel like we played the right way last game and weve been playing the right way and getting wins many different ways. But the process to get the score you want after 60 minutes is whats important to us. Its not so much just looking at the score and what the result is going to be, but what the process is. And thats what we need to focus on.

Rangers coach John Tortorella says that Birons success this season has been crucial to New Yorks strong showing in the standings.

Everybody thinks that when you put your backup in, its just to give the No. 1 a rest. If you want to get to where you want to be (Biron) needs to win. Martys done that. Its allowed Hank (Lundqvist) to practise at a higher level instead of playing all the games. And right now in the first half of the year, its been pretty good for us.

Rangers centre Brandon Dubinsky will miss his second game in a row with a sore shoulder.

Its still sore, Tortorella said. We just dont want it to turn into a bigger problem. Were just trying to be careful.

The Leafs, meanwhile, have won five in a row at the ACC and another victory would mean their longest home winning streak since a nine-game run from March 6 to April 7 in 2007.


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