Maple Leafs-Senators Preview

The Associated Press

It may not be surprising the Toronto Maple Leafs' current surge has coincided with the return of high-scoring forward Joffrey Lupul.

Toronto looks to earn at least a point in an eighth straight game Saturday night as it visits the Ottawa Senators, who have been on a decent run of their own.

Lupul missed 25 games with a broken forearm suffered in a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 23 - Toronto's third game of the season. It went a respectable 13-11-1 without him but has gone 4-0-3 since Lupul's return March 16.

The winger has scored seven goals and added two assists in his five games during that run, having been suspended for two contests for a hit to the head of Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman on March 20.

Lupul scored the winner with 3:10 to play in Thursday's 6-3 victory over Carolina and also assisted on Dion Phaneuf's goal that tied the game 2:15 earlier. Toronto won despite blowing a 2-0 lead.

"We were confident we were going to win the game the whole time," Lupul said. "That's the sign of our team really maturing. We get in these tight games, last year we probably wouldn't have won that game."

Coach Randy Carlyle praised the work ethic of Lupul, who has three goals and five assists during a six-game point streak against the Senators.

"There's nobody that prepares himself more and knows what needs to be done when you're away from the rink and when you come to the rink," Carlyle said.

Toronto (19-12-4) has 13 games remaining and sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs, on the verge of making their first postseason appearance since 2003-04, can tie Ottawa (19-9-6) for fifth with a regulation win Saturday.

"We as coaches were probably doing a poor job early in the year by ramping up the intensity rather than calming it down," Carlyle said. "We were doing too much yelling, too much talking. We decided we would take a quieter and a calmer approach (in tough situations) and relate to the players we can get ourselves out of this."

The Senators have been calm through their own adversity, having won six of seven despite continuing to play without injured stars Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek. They're also still missing goaltender Craig Anderson, who had a league-best 1.49 goals-against average when he sprained his right ankle Feb. 21.

Ben Bishop made 24 saves en route to his first shutout in two years as Ottawa beat the New York Rangers 3-0 on Thursday for its third straight victory.

"It's nice when you get the win," said Bishop, who is 6-2-0 with a 2.20 GAA in eight starts since Anderson's injury. "I thought the guys in front of me played unbelievable."

Bishop has won four straight starts since losing at Toronto, 5-4 on March 6.

The Senators have dropped four of the last five meetings, but that lone win came Feb. 23 as Colin Greening scored with 24 seconds remaining to give Ottawa a 3-2 home victory.

While the Senators are a conference-best 13-2-3 at home, the Leafs have lost all four of their road games this month - the last two in shootouts.

James Reimer, 6-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA in eight career starts versus Ottawa, likely will be in net for Toronto.

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