Toronto (12-15-4) at Vancouver (17-8-4)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Vancouver, BC
Temp: 66° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Sat Dec 18, 2010
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If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to get their first win in Vancouver in more than seven years, then they’ll have to do so without their top goaltender.

Jonas Gustavsson(notes) will start for Toronto on Saturday night against the Canucks, who seek their fourth straight home victory over the Maple Leafs.

After opening a western Canadian swing with a 4-1 win over Edmonton on Tuesday, Toronto lost its sixth straight in Calgary, 5-2 on Thursday. The Maple Leafs ended up losing much more.

On Friday, the team said Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) would be out indefinitely after re-aggravating a groin injury. Giguere gave up three goals 57 seconds apart in the second period and was replaced at the start of the third by Gustavsson, who stopped eight of nine shots.

Giguere, a 13-year veteran and Stanley Cup winner, is 8-7-2 with a 2.80 goals-against average. He missed six games last month and two more last week with the same ailment, and hopes doctors can explain why the injury keeps recurring.

“Why is it coming back? Because I am bringing it back to 100 percent where I feel like there is absolutely no pain whatsoever and as I get playing some games, it gets tired and tight and weak and then the sharp pain comes,” he said.

For now, Gustavsson will handle most of the goaltending chores with James Reimer(notes) recalled Friday from the AHL to serve as his backup. Now in his second season, Gustavsson is 4-8-2 with a 2.91 GAA in 2010-11. He has never faced the Canucks.

He will try to end Toronto’s skid at Rogers Arena - formerly GM Place. The Maple Leafs (12-15-4) have been outscored 11-6 since last winning in Vancouver on Nov. 22, 2003, part of a stretch in which they’ve dropped seven straight overall to their Canadian rival.

Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa(notes) wouldn’t guarantee extending the winning streak.

“I don’t think we can underestimate these guys, not to say we’ve done that in the past,” he said. “They are a good team and they play hard every time.”

Gustavsson’s challenge could be easier if Mikhail Grabovski(notes) continues to produce. He’s scored in each of the first two games on Toronto’s trip and has five goals in his last six contests.

Grabovski has 10 goals in 31 games, matching his total from 59 contests last season.

The Canucks (17-8-4) have one of the league’s best home records at 10-3-2 thanks to Henrik Sedin(notes) and Ryan Kesler(notes). Sedin, the reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner, has 15 assists and 17 points in Vancouver, where Kesler has scored 10 of his 15 goals.

Kesler completed the first hat trick of his NHL career Wednesday in overtime as the Canucks defeated Columbus 3-2.

“It just felt good to get it off my back,” said Kesler, who had 12 previous two-goal games in his career. “I was sniffing for a while to get that third one.”

Vancouver, which is 7-1-1 in its last nine overall, always enjoys facing the last-place Maple Leafs.

“I’m not going to say we don’t like each other, but it’s a big rivalry,” Kesler said.

Barring a late injury, a resurgent Roberto Luongo(notes) will start in goal for the Canucks. He allowed 10 goals while losing three straight starts last month, but is 7-1-0 with a 1.85 GAA and a shutout since Nov. 24.

Luongo is 5-0-0 with a 2.22 GAA in his last six games against Toronto.

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Saturday, Dec 18