The Toronto Maple Leafs had the weekend to rest after an overtime victory that featured a breakout performance by one of their young stars.
The oldest member of the New Jersey Devils remains out, and they still haven’t won since his injury.
The Devils look to avoid their first five-game losing streak in more than two years when they visit Toronto on Monday night.
This is the season’s first matchup between two teams separated by one point in the standings, and the Leafs (13-9-0) were thrilled to pick up an extra point with Dion Phaneuf’s OT goal in a 5-4 road win Thursday over the New York Islanders.
Toronto had squandered a two-goal lead in the third period after Nazem Kadri completed his first career hat trick in the second. The 22-year-old center has a four-game point streak and leads the Leafs with 21 points - a position he didn’t expect to occupy so soon.
“I have pretty high expectations for myself,” said Kadri, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft, “but I didn’t really see it like that when I first came into the season.”
James van Riemsdyk 23, added his team-high 12th goal. The former Philadelphia forward has scored four times in his last six regular-season games against New Jersey.
Phil Kessel continues to struggle for Toronto, with no points and a minus-6 rating in his last two contests. The Leafs lost 5-2 at home to Montreal on Wednesday, but they still haven’t dropped back-to-back games since Feb. 5 - a 9-4-0 stretch.
“We feel good about ourselves,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “Now it’s time to get a little exhaling because it’s been such a whirlwind ride for us. Now it’s time to do some assessments and get us prepared for our next one Monday.”
The Devils (10-6-5) picked up their only point in their last four contests in a 4-3 shootout loss Saturday at Buffalo.
Martin Brodeur missed his fourth straight game with a back injury. The 40-year-old netminder is eligible to be activated from the injured list Monday but is not expected to return quite yet.
While Brodeur has gone 5-1-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average in his last seven starts, Johan Hedberg is 0-4-1 with a 3.78 GAA in his past five.
New Jersey’s offense showed some signs of life Saturday after scoring two goals or fewer in five of its previous six games. Andrei Loktionov’s second goal in as many games extended his point streak to five and tied the contest with 8:38 remaining in regulation.
The Devils went 0 for 5 on the power play, though, and have come up empty on 13 chances during their skid.
“I think we’re figuring it out again, and things are going in the right direction,” said Ryan Carter who had an assist in his first game back after missing four because of an upper-body injury. “You take the positives and move forward.”
The Devils have won each of their last three games in Toronto in overtime. Each club has taken 11 of the last 22 meetings.
New Jersey hasn’t dropped five in a row overall since a six-game skid in December 2010.