Joe Nieuwendyk, who signed with the Maple Leafs in the offseason, is facing the Devils for the first time since helping them win the Stanley Cup last season.
“We miss Nieuwendyk as an all-around player,” New Jersey coach Pat Burns. “We added a great player in Igor Larionov and we lost a great player in Nieuwendyk. I don’t think it’s fair to say Igor replaces Nieuwendyk. You don’t replace guys like that.”
Nieuwendyk had 14 goals and 28 assists in 80 games with Devils last season and added three goals and six assists in 17 playoff games. A solid two-way player, Nieuwendyk tried to play with a sore hip in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa. He missed all of the Stanley Cup finals.
Toronto is still a bit banged up after a 2-2 tie against Washington at Air Canada Centre on Monday night, as three key players are nursing assorted injuries.
Tom Fitzgerald, who missed the final six games of the preseason and the first two games of the regular season with a shoulder injury, will be inserted into the lineup Thursday to replace Mogilny, who has an injured groin.
New Jersey is unbeaten in its first two games and comes off a 2-1 win at Carolina on Saturday night.
Larionov is off to a good start with his new team. The 42-year-old forward has three assists in his first two games, and has made an immediate impact on a Devils power play that was not overly impressive a season ago.
New Jersey has scored four power-play goals in two games. It took the Devils 12 games to accomplish that last season.
“The power play is a huge part of the game,” Larionov said. “You have to punish the guy (who took the penalty) by scoring a goal. That’s not pressure. It just has to be done.”
STANDINGS (through Oct. 14): Maple Leafs - 1 points, 5th place, Northeast Division. Devils - 3 points, 1st place (tied), Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Nik Antropov and Mogilny, 1 goal; Tomas Kaberle and Ric Jackman, 1 assist; Antropov, Mogilny, Kaberle and Jackman, 1 point; Wade Belak, 6 PIM. Devils - Scott Niedermayer, 2 goals; Larionov and Brian Rafalski, 3 assists and 3 points; six players with 2 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 14): Maple Leafs - Power play: 9.1 percent (1 for 11), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 70 percent (7 for 10), 26th. Devils - Power play: 44.4 percent (4 for 9 ), 1st in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (6 for 7), tied for 13th.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-1-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 4; Maple Leafs, 2-1. At Toronto, Belfour made a season-high 50 saves as the Maple Leafs beat the Devils in the second game of a home-and-home series.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 0-0-0-0 on the road; Devils - 0-0-0-0 at home.