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Leafs hope to end costly slide in New Jersey

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs have picked a bad time to go on a four-game losing streak, but the struggling club hopes to end its slide Sunday evening in New Jersey.

Toronto has dropped four straight in regulation and has five losses in its last six games. The rough patch has the Maple Leafs barely hanging on to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 80 points.

The Leafs are one point in front of Detroit for the first wild card spot. The Red Wings currently occupy the second wild card, but are tied in the standings with Washington. Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets are lurking just two points behind Toronto. The Red Wings and Blue Jackets have games on Sunday, while Washington is off.

The Devils, meanwhile, are six points behind Detroit for the last playoff spot in the East. New Jersey also hasn't helped its postseason cause lately with four losses in five games.

Toronto's most recent setback came in Saturday's home test against the rival Montreal Canadiens. Tomas Plekanec scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and the Habs held on for the 4-3 win at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs are 0-4 with Reimer in net since starting goalie Jonathan Bernier went down with a groin injury on March 13 in Los Angeles. Bernier is nearing a return from his injury but he didn't make the trip to New Jersey on Sunday, meaning Reimer could get another start.

Some good news for the Maple Leafs? Center Dave Bolland played his first game Saturday since suffering a severed tendon in his ankle on Nov. 2.

"I felt great," said Bolland. "I felt good with everything that was going on out there."

Bolland had one shot in nine minutes and Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri scored Toronto's goals. Reimer stopped 32 shots in the loss.

"We win and lose as a team," said Carlyle. "The work ethic of our group has been strong. Our execution is the area we need to get better at."

Toronto hopes to continue its recent dominance of the Devils on Sunday. The Maple Leafs have won the last six encounters in this series overall and have claimed three straight and four of five in New Jersey.

Both meetings between the clubs this season have ended in shootouts. James van Riemsdyk, a native of New Jersey, provided the decisive shootout goal for Toronto on both occasions.

Sunday's game will mark Toronto forward David Clarkson's first game back in New Jersey. Clarkson, who played in 426 games for the Devils, had a 30-goal season for Jersey in 2011-12 but left the Garden State over the summer to sign a seven-year, $36.75 million contract with Toronto.

It has been a trying first season with the Leafs for Clarkson. The 29-year-old has missed significant time due to suspensions and injuries and only has four goals and six assists in 49 games this season.

Clarkson has so far failed to register a point in two games against the Devils in 2013-14.

"I would be lying if I said (this game) was something that you don't think about," Clarkson told NorthJersey.com. "I don't know how the fans will act, but I am looking forward to going back."

The Devils were blanked in Saturday's home battle against the New York Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 50th career shutout, a new franchise record, to help New York record the 2-0 win at Prudential Center. The loss dropped New Jersey nine points behind the Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Martin Brodeur was solid in defeat, stopping 25-of-26 shots for the Devils, who only have 11 games left to make a playoff push.

"We've got to regroup because we have a game tomorrow and it starts right there," said New Jersey forward Stephen Gionta. "We're going to have to claw our way back because we're not going to give up until the end."

New Jersey fell to 1-2-0 on a crucial five-game homestand after Saturday's setback and the club is 17-10-7 as the host this season.

Cory Schneider will get the call in net for New Jersey on Sunday. He is 0-2 with a 1.40 goals against average in two career games against Toronto.