Canadiens-Maple Leafs Preview

The Associated Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs saw favorable results from splitting up their top line, which could be bad news for the Montreal Canadiens.

The Maple Leafs will go for their third win in as many tries this season against the Canadiens on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.

Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel are Toronto's top two scorers and are among the league leaders with 51 and 50 points, respectively. After being held to one goal and one assist during a three-game losing streak, the two were split up, with Lupul being shifted to the Maple Leafs' struggling third line.

The move paid off as Toronto (23-18-5) snapped a three-game losing streak, during which it scored four goals, with a 4-1 victory over Minnesota on Thursday. Kessel scored his 25th of the season, while Lupul tied a career high with three assists.

"I'm not looking and chasing guys like Evgeni Malkin and the Sedin brothers," Lupul said. "I'm just going to keep playing the same way I have been and hopefully the points keep coming."

Lupul has two assists in two wins against Montreal this season while Kessel has a goal and two assists, giving him four and four during a four-game point streak against the Canadiens.

Captain Dion Phaneuf said much was made of the line changes because of the team's losing streak, but that it wasn't a big deal.

"It's part of the game," he said. "Teams don't stay with the same lines for the whole 82 games. ... We weren't having success and things had to change."

The Maple Leafs may stick with Jonas Gustavsson in net after he recorded 20 saves Thursday. Gustavsson, who has won five of his last seven starts, started one of the victories against Montreal to improve to 3-1-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average versus the Canadiens.

While Phaneuf said the Maple Leafs expect a big challenge from their rivals despite the Canadiens having played the night before, Montreal may be deflated after a 5-4 shootout loss at Pittsburgh on Friday.

The Canadiens (17-21-9) led 4-2 entering the third period before the Penguins rallied, scoring the tying goal with 2:43 remaining.

"It's frustrating for everybody," coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "I mean, we deserved maybe a little better fate for going ahead the way we did, but it's a battle out there and I think we have to continue to keep battling hard and work right until the end."

It was the second time in less than a week that the Canadiens blew a third-period lead. They were ahead 2-1 late against Ottawa last Saturday before falling 3-2 in a shootout. Montreal has lost five of six (1-3-2).

With backup Peter Budaj starting Friday, Carey Price figures to be back in net looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Price is 0-3-1 despite 2.47 GAA in his past four games. He has allowed seven goals on 45 shots in two starts (0-1-1) against Toronto this season.

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