Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens Preview

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MONTREAL (AP) - The Montreal Canadiens could have tied for the Northeast Division lead earlier this week. A loss to one of the league's worst clubs wasn't the way they hoped to respond.

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Montreal now looks to avoid its first four-game losing streak of the season Saturday night when its Original Six rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs continues at the Bell Centre.

With a chance to pull even with division-leading Boston on Wednesday, the Canadiens (30-20-6) fell 8-6 in a contest marred by seven game misconducts and 182 penalty minutes. Hosting a New York Islanders team that began the game last in the Eastern Conference, Montreal failed to bounce back from its emotional defeat in Boston, losing 4-3 in a shootout Thursday.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Canadiens -156 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 80% of more than 290 bets for this game have been placed on the Maple Leafs +144.

"After two periods I thought we controlled the play pretty well," said coach Jacques Martin, whose club had a 3-2 lead after a 20-shot second period Thursday. "A couple of breakdowns, they capitalized, and we need to be better in a couple of areas."

One of those areas is the power play. The Canadiens are 4 of 34 with the man advantage over the last seven games, with all four goals coming Wednesday.

Montreal, which last lost four straight during an 0-4-1 skid Dec. 10-17, 2009, will try to avoid a season-worst third consecutive home loss as it welcomes the Maple Leafs (23-26-6) for the second time in 2010-11.

Carey Price made 30 saves and recorded his eighth career shutout in a 2-0 win over Toronto on Nov. 20 that snapped the Maple Leafs' 4-0-1 run in Montreal.

Price, among the league leaders with 26 wins, could be back in net after giving up a career-high eight goals Wednesday and getting the night off Thursday when backup Alex Auld turned away 30 shots. Price was 5-2-2 with a 2.01 goals-against average in his previous nine games.

James Reimer is making a strong case to remain in goal for Toronto. The 22-year-old rookie, splitting time with Jean-Sebastien Giguere since Jonas Gustavsson was shipped to the AHL last week, made 37 saves in Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss to New Jersey.

"He played really well," captain Dion Phaneuf said after the Leafs were denied a third straight victory. "Like he has every game that he's played, he's given us a chance to win."

Reimer has a 2.54 GAA since being recalled from the minors in late January, compared to 3.82 for Giguere.

Whoever is in net for Toronto will be hoping the team's power play can start to improve. The Maple Leafs are 3 for 40 with the man advantage over the last 11 games.

"We have to move the puck," coach Ron Wilson said. "We've got pointmen who won't hit the guys open or get the puck up the ice in a hurry."

All-Star Phil Kessel is tied for second on the club with six power-play goals, but he has not scored in 13 straight games, two off a career high.

Kessel scored in each of Toronto's two home wins over the Canadiens this season - 3-2 on Oct. 7 and 3-1 on Dec. 11 - but he has no goals in 13 career games at the Bell Centre.

The last time the Leafs lost twice at Montreal in one season was 2007-08.

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