Leafs Head to Phoenix

It's taken just three games for Ilya Bryzgalov to do what neither Mikael Tellqvist, Alex Auld nor David Aebischer could - entrench himself firmly as the Phoenix Coyotes' starting goaltender.

Coming off his third straight win with his new club, Bryzgalov looks to keep his success with the Coyotes going as they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night to Jobing.com Arena.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Phoenix -114 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -114 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Prior to this season, Bryzgalov was best known as Jean-Sebastien Giguere's backup for defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim. Since being picked up off waivers from the Ducks on Nov. 17, Bryzgalov has quickly emerged as Phoenix's best option in net.

He made 23 saves on Friday, but needed Radim Vrbata's goal in the fourth round of the shootout on Friday to help Phoenix (10-10-0) to a 4-3 win over Anaheim.

"You have to play hard, even if it's against your old team," Bryzgalov said. "You have to be professional when you step on the ice to win the game no matter what, but we have friendships after the game. I was here seven years and it was a great seven years. It was an unforgettable time in Anaheim."

With his new club, Bryzgalov has stopped 79 of 83 shots for a 1.30 goals-against average. That's moved Tellqvist to a backup role and allowed Phoenix to demote Auld to San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Aebischer, a former starter in Colorado and Montreal, was sent to the minors earlier this season and has since been loaned to Swiss team HC Lugano.

Bryzgalov has never started against the Maple Leafs, but made his NHL debut against them on Oct. 8, 2001, when he made 11 saves in relief of Steve Shields in Anaheim's 6-1 loss.

After being held off the scoresheet in six straight games coming into Friday's contest, Vrbata scored twice and added an assist in regulation. He hasn't recorded a point in six straight games against the Maple Leafs.

Phoenix is looking for its longest winning streak since a seven-game run from Dec. 28-Jan. 9 of last season.

The Maple Leafs (8-10-5) are coming off a 3-1 defeat to Dallas on Friday. Alexei Ponikarovsky scored and Vesa Toskala made 22 saves as Toronto lost for the fifth time in six games.

Acquired in the offseason from San Jose, Toskala was expected to challenge Andrew Raycroft as Toronto's starting goalie, but neither have distinguished themselves, especially away from home. Toskala is 3-4-0 playing away from the Air Canada Centre while Raycroft has been tagged for 10 goals in his two road losses

Mats Sundin drew an assist in Friday's loss to extend his points streak to a season-high seven games. Sundin has three goals and five assists in his latest streak, and leads Toronto with 11 goals and 18 assists.

Sundin also will try to extend a scoring streak against the Coyotes that goes back nearly a decade - he has four goals and eight assists in leading Toronto to a 6-3-0 record versus them since January 1998.

This will be the Maple Leafs' first visit to Arizona since a 5-4 loss on Oct. 23, 2003.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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