Kovalchuk, Devils host Maple Leafs tonight
MAPLE LEAFS (18-28-11) at DEVILS (35-18-2)
Last 10 --
Toronto 3-5-2; New Jersey 3-6-1
Season series --
The clubs are meeting for the third time in eight days -- the most recent encounter coming at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday when newly-acquired goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 29 saves to notch his second shutout of the season and give Toronto a 3-0 victory. The teams played at Prudential Center on Jan. 29 when the Maple Leafs stormed back from a 4-2 deficit with a pair of goals late in regulation, but the Devils prevailed 5-4 in overtime on a power-play goal by Travis Zajac
. The Maple Leafs lead the all-time series 34-32-15.
Big Story --
It looks like Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello got the rental player he needed for his team's goal-scoring blues -- Ilya Kovalchuk. New Jersey won the Kovy sweepstakes on Thursday night when Lamoriello engineered a deal with Atlanta GM Don Waddell that sent the high-scoring Russian to New Jersey, along with defenseman Anssi Salmela
, in exchange for defenseman Johnny Oduya, right wing Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a 2010 first-round draft pick. The clubs will also swap second-round picks this June. The deal comes at a time when the Devils have lost eight of their last 11 games and have been shut out four times in their last 12. They've also managed only 16 goals in their last 10 games.
Maple Leafs --
Toronto General Manager Brian Burke made quite the splash on Sunday when he dealt four regulars -- forwards Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan and Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White -- to the Calgary Flames for defenseman Dion Phaneuf, winger Fredrik Sjostrom and defensive prospect Keith Aulie. Less than an hour later, he informed the media that goalie Vesa Toskala and wing Jason Blake were headed to Anaheim for Giguere, a former Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner.
In his first start as a Maple Leaf against the Devils on Tuesday, Giguere became the second goalie in franchise history to earn a shutout in his debut with the team -- matching Ed Belfour's performance in October 2002.
The flu bug seems to be running rampant through the team right now, which might explain why forwards Jamie Langenbrunner
(one goal in 15 games), Rob Niedermayer
(one goal in 21 games) and Jay Pandolfo
(no goals in 15 games) are struggling so mightily. Langenbrunner actually sat out the third period of Tuesday's loss to the Leafs, but, according to general manager Lou Lamoriello, is expected to play on Friday. It's still uncertain whether or not Kovalchuk will be in the lineup against Toronto.
Who's Hot --
Devils wing Brian Rolston
has 1 goal and 3 points over his last four games.
Injury Report --
Elias (concussion) is skating for the Devils, while forward David Clarkson
(lower body) and defenseman Paul Martin
(arm) are out. … Toronto is without center Mikhail Grabovski (wrist) and defenseman Mike Van Ryn (knee). Defenseman Mike Komisarek will need season-ending shoulder surgery.
Stat Pack --
Kovalchuk has 31 goals and 58 points in 49 games this season. For his career, the eight-year veteran has 328 goals and 615 points in 594 games. … Phaneuf has 131 hits this season -- 23 more than the next closest Maple Leaf, Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Puck Drop --
Expect Brodeur to get the nod against Toronto. After starting 33 consecutive games and appearing in 40 in a row, Devils backup Yann Danis played the whole game Tuesday in Toronto. Brodeur is 18-15-10 lifetime against the Leafs.