Panthers-Maple Leafs Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are eager to move on from their worst defensive performance of the season. The Florida Panthers are ready to hit the road after a frustrating homestand.
Toronto looks to continue its strong play against the Florida Panthers at home when the teams meet for the first time this season Tuesday night.
The Maple Leafs (9-4-1) fell 7-0 to Boston at Air Canada Centre on Saturday, getting shut out for the first time and allowing their most goals of the season.
"We've got to be better collectively," defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "It's not goaltending or the forwards or just the D-men."
Florida (6-4-3), meanwhile, dropped shootouts in all three games of a homestand that ended with Sunday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay. The Panthers led 3-0 after one period.
"We've (thrown) away points," defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "We should have three or four extra points by now. It comes around to bite you in the (butt) towards the end."
The home team won all four meetings last season between these clubs, and Toronto has earned at least one point in 10 of the past 14 matchups at Air Canada Centre.
The Panthers will start a two-game trip as they again match up against one of the NHL's leaders in goals. They will try to slow down Phil Kessel, who is tied with the Lightning's Steve Stamkos with 10 goals and leads the league with 21 points.
Kessel will have a new linemate in center Tyler Bozak, who replaces an injured Tim Connolly. Connolly is expected to be sidelined 10 to 14 days because of an upper-body injury.
Toronto's problems have been on the defensive end, with a league-worst 70.9 percent penalty kill. The Maple Leafs' power play has also been poor at 15.2 percent.
"It's something that we're focused on both parts of our specials teams, we're working on it ad nauseum watching countless video," coach Ron Wilson said. "And at some point it's going to click in, I hope."
Defenseman Luke Schenn will return to the lineup after Wilson benched him Saturday. Schenn played in the first 13 games.
"Obviously I expect a lot of myself and want to get better," Schenn said. "I want to help the team as much as possible."
Toronto's Jonas Gustavsson will get another start replacing James Reimer, out with concussion-like symptoms. Gustavsson's 3.68 goals-against average is ahead of only Columbus' Steve Mason for the worst among qualifying goaltenders.
"I don't like to say where my game is and stuff like that," Gustavsson said. "It's just about going out there and doing everything you can."
The Maple Leafs will see a familiar face in Panthers top scorer Kris Versteeg, who played 53 games for Toronto last season before being traded to Philadelphia. Versteeg has 13 points.
Versteeg and Jason Garrison each have three power-play goals for a unit that has converted 23.5 percent of its chances for one of the league's better marks.
The Panthers have grown accustomed to tight finishes with six straight one-goal games, with blown third-period leads in two of the last three.
"A little bit of the same old story for us," said coach Kevin Dineen about Sunday's defeat. "When you're up 3-0 you like to close that door. Instead, we found a way to lose."
Updated November 7, 2011