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27-21-7

Maple Leafs-Senators Preview

AP - Sports

Joffrey Lupul says the Toronto Maple Leafs are targeting the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference race.

More production from Lupul and fellow All-Star Phil Kessel could help the Maple Leafs make up some ground on their provincial rivals.

Toronto looks to extend its point streak to a season high-tying five games Saturday night in the nation's capital, where the Senators will try to avoid a season-worst sixth straight defeat.

Heading back to Ottawa, where he scored twice while skating alongside Kessel and Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in Sunday's All-Star game, Lupul said he would like to see the Toronto-Ottawa rivalry extend past the six scheduled regular-season contests.

"Ideally we'd like to play a playoff series against them," Lupul said following Friday's practice. "That would be great for the whole province and both cities. ... We looked at the All-Star break, and they're a team we think we can catch."

The Maple Leafs (26-19-6), who have dropped three straight to Ottawa since a 6-5 home win Oct. 8, currently hold the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, three points back of the sixth-place Senators (27-20-7).

Lupul - the team leader with 32 assists and 52 points - and Kessel have combined for six goals and 11 points in the season series with Ottawa. However, the pair has eight total points in Toronto's last 10 games overall.

Coach Ron Wilson doesn't seem too concerned, especially with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski doing the heavy lifting during the Leafs' 3-0-1 run, combining for seven of Toronto's 12 goals in that span and recording 15 points.

"Goal scoring is cyclical with most players in our league," Wilson said. "I'm sure (Lupul and Kessel will) come out of it."

The Senators are hoping that's true for Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Neither of Ottawa's top two goal scorers has found the back of the net during the team's 0-4-1 skid.

The Senators are 1 for 12 on the power play during that stretch after failing in both chances in Friday's 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

"I thought the power play sucked the life out of us instead of giving us some opportunity and giving us momentum," coach Paul MacLean said.

Ottawa's current momentum is all negative. It will now try to avoid its first six-game losing streak since an 0-9-2 skid Jan. 14-Feb. 9, 2011.

Craig Anderson, who made 30 saves Friday, should extend his career high with a 17th consecutive start as the Senators continue their season-high five-game homestand.

Anderson is 2-0-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average versus Toronto this season in three starts, all coming on the road.

Robin Lehner made 23 saves in the Senators' 3-2 home win over the Maple Leafs on Oct. 30.

Jonas Gustavsson turned aside 27 shots for Toronto in that contest, but the Senators will face James Reimer for the third time this season after the young netminder had 25 saves in Wednesday's 1-0 home win over Pittsburgh. It was his first start since an 18-save performance versus Ottawa in a 3-2 home loss on Jan. 17.

"I really wanted to get this win,'' Reimer said. "It's been a tough little last couple weeks or whatever. Things really haven't gone my way."

Reimer is 2-0-0 with a 1.51 lifetime GAA in Ottawa. His first career road start was a 5-1 victory over the Senators on Jan. 1, 2011, when he made 32 saves.

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