Maple Leafs-Oilers Preview


Nine days ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs capped a 5-0-1 stretch with a convincing victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

The Leafs haven't won since, and Edmonton might not be the best place to snap out of their funk.

Toronto tries to avoid a fifth straight loss Wednesday night when it visits an Oilers team aiming for its longest home winning streak in nearly four years.

Following a lackluster first three months of the season, Toronto (28-23-6) surged to a 10-4-1 mark over a five-week stretch that began at the start of January and continued through a 6-3 home win over the Oilers on Feb. 6.

Phil Kessel had two goals and an assist in that contest while Mikhail Grabovski added a pair of assists for the Leafs, whose hot streak had lifted them from the outskirts of the playoff race into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

"There's not a whole heck of a lot of scoreboard watching on our part,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said after the Feb. 6 win. "Just take care of our own business and worry about ourselves. That's kind of our mentality.''

Wilson's club has failed to take care of its own business since beating the Oilers, dropping a season-high four straight to fall back into eighth place, just one point ahead of Washington for the final playoff spot. Toronto has been outscored 10-1 over its last two games, including a 5-1 rout at Calgary on Tuesday to open a three-game swing through Western Canada.

The Leafs outshot the Flames 42-34, but only Tyler Bozak's 13th goal of the season was able to beat Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

"We have to find a way to get to the front of the net and get rebounds because there were rebounds," Wilson said. "We got shots through. They did a pretty good job of boxing out. It's a combination. You've got to give them credit and we still have to find ways to win those battles in front of the net."

Given that Toronto visits Northwest Division-leading Vancouver on Saturday, a visit to last-place Edmonton (22-28-5) might seem to be the best chance to avoid a winless road trip. However, the Oilers are 5-2-1 in their last eight games overall and looking to win five in a row at home for the first time since an eight-game run Feb. 4-March 2, 2008.

The four-game winning streak at Rexall Place hasn't come cheaply. Edmonton has scored 18 goals during the run, which includes victories over division leaders Detroit and San Jose.

The Oilers salvaged a win in the finale of a three-game road trip by beating Ottawa 4-3 in overtime Saturday. Taylor Hall scored 17 seconds into the extra session to win it, and second-year left wing Magnus Paajarvi added his first goal of the season.

"It's a huge weight off his shoulders,'' Edmonton center Sam Gagner said of Paajarvi, who had 15 goals as a rookie in 2010-11. "He's got a lot of skill, so for him to get one it's going to really open up a lot of confidence for him and hopefully keep scoring here.''

Gagner will try to get back on track after seeing his five-game point streak snapped. He's gotten on the scoresheet the last four times he's faced the Leafs, with a goal and three assists in those contests.

Toronto hasn't lost five straight since an eight-game skid Oct. 28-Nov. 13, 2010.