Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs Preview

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TORONTO, Ont. (AP) - Rick Nash turned in the type of performance in his last game that showed why Toronto Maple Leafs fans have long coveted the superstar.

Nash looks to help the Columbus Blue Jackets end a seven-game road slide when they face the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

A native of nearby Brampton, Ontario, Nash was the subject of continued speculation that Toronto wanted to acquire him before he signed an eight-year extension with Columbus (18-15-3) before the 2009-10 season.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Maple Leafs -119 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Blue Jackets. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 57% of more than 120 bets for this game have been placed on the Blue Jackets +110.

 The winger ended a four-game point drought with two assists and added a shootout goal in a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Monday. His 206 assists moved him past David Vyborny for the franchise mark, and he's also the club leader with 244 goals and 450 points.

The effort was similar to how Nash fared in his last visit to Toronto. He had gone scoreless in two previous road games against the Maple Leafs before recording a goal, an assist and a shootout tally in a 4-3 victory Feb. 19, 2009.

Toronto (13-18-4), though, has never lost in regulation to Columbus, going 5-0-2 with one tie. Phil Kessel scored twice against Steve Mason in the Maple Leafs' 6-3 road victory Dec. 3, 2009.

Mason was pulled in the second period of that game, but the beleaguered goaltender came through Monday for his second victory in nine contests with 37 saves. He was pulled in three of his last four starts.

"Steve gave us a chance to win," coach Scott Arniel said. "He made some stops in the shootout and overtime. He made some stops early in the game and in the penalty situation in the second period. Hopefully, confidence-wise, it's a good jolt for him."

Arniel sent a message to his club by making wingers Derek Dorsett and Jake Voracek and defenseman Rostislav Klesla healthy scratches for the first time. All three are key players, with Voracek tied for the team lead with 14 assists.

"You know what, I don't think that anybody is untouchable when it comes to us needing to make changes to put the best lineup that I feel is going to give us a chance to win," Arniel said.

The Blue Jackets have been outscored 29-11 in going 0-5-2 in their last seven road games.

Columbus did not have a power play Monday, failing to get a chance to improve its Western Conference-worst 12.2 percent mark. The Maple Leafs are one of the worst penalty killing teams in the league at 76.4 percent.

Kessel ended a four-game goal drought by scoring twice in a 4-3 loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Toronto turned in a gritty effort after being stuck in New Jersey for an extra day following Sunday's 4-1 win over the Devils due to the Northeast snowstorm.

"I'm satisfied with our team, we played hard tonight," coach Ron Wilson said. "We just didn't win. I'm happy with the way the group is responding and playing."

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