Panthers-Maple Leafs Preview

The Associated Press

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed smooth sailing in pursuit of a playoff spot -- until Saturday.

That was when the team's No. 1 goaltender, Frederik Andersen, did not appear after the first period of the Leafs' 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Andersen is listed as day-to-day with what is being termed an upper-body injury.

Curtis McElhinney, who took over from Andersen on Saturday and allowed three goals on 22 shots, will start Tuesday night when the Maple Leafs play the Florida Panthers at the Air Canada Centre.

The Panthers (33-31-11) are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Monday night. It was the first loss in three games for Florida, which is 5-11-1 in the past 17 games.

The Panthers, who defeated the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7-0 on Saturday, on Tuesday will play the second game of four in a row on the road.

The key for the Maple Leafs will be how long Andersen, a stalwart in the nets this season, will be out. The Toronto Star cited sources as saying it was a jaw injury, and there was other speculation that it was a head injury.

Andersen did take part in some of the team's practice on Monday.

"It doesn't appear to be long (term) and obviously that's great," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "The way I look at injuries is that it's an opportunity for (McElhinney) and he gets (two days) to prepare. Curtis is a good pro and has done a good job for us."

The Maple Leafs called up Garrett Sparks from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League and he will be the backup on Tuesday.

"I feel pretty good," Andersen told reporters. "I got bumped pretty early in the game (Saturday) and didn't feel right the rest of the period. We discussed with the doctor, and decided to play it safe. I felt a little bit off. I wanted to see what would happen in intermission, and we decided to take it easy."

Andersen does not know how long he will be out. "We don't know," he said. "It's tough to predict. We're taking it slow. Felt good today, but we're taking it one day at a time."

The Maple Leafs also called up Kasperi Kapanen from the Marlies, with injuries to Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov and Eric Fehr. The 20-year-old Kapanen has 43 points in 43 games with the Marlies.

As for McElhinney, he said: "It's no different than any of my other starts, outside of the fact it's not a back-to-back. It will be a good experience. I don't know if I've ever been in this situation, being in a playoff (race). But being a backup, every game is really important for me. I'm not sure if anyone expected this (the Maple Leafs contending for a playoff spot) at the beginning of the season. It's a great spot to be in."

The Panthers had goaltender trouble themselves in Buffalo. James Reimer allowed four goals on 22 shots and was removed from the game after the Sabres scored with 4:52 to play in the second period. Reto Berra replaced him.

Florida got goals from Jonathan Huberdeau and Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the team with 29 goals and has six in the past three games.

Florida's Reilly Smith was stopped on a penalty shot by Buffalo goaltender Robin Lehner at 5:23 of the third period.

"It was a lot of opportunities out there," Smith said. "It was just tough that not a lot of them went in the back of the net."

"We didn't play the way we're supposed to," Panthers general manager and interim coach Tom Rowe said. "We weren't prepared mentally or physically, and that's what happens when you come into a building like this and they're ready and we weren't."

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