Leafs aim for fresh start in Jersey

(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping for a fresh start Wednesday when they emerge from the NHL's All-Star break to visit the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

The Maple Leafs limped into the break on a six-game losing streak and dropped all six outings in regulation. Toronto's offense has been shut out three times during the slide and the club is 1-7-0 since head coach Randy Carlyle was fired and replaced by Peter Horachek on an interim basis.

If there is a bright spot for the Leafs, who are 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, it's that they managed to score three goals in their most recent outing. The three markers came in last Wednesday's 4-3 loss in Ottawa and the offensive output gives Toronto five total goals during this 0-6-0 slide.

Leafs forward Nazem Kadri is one guy who believes the team is heading in the right direction despite the current win drought.

"There are signs of good things here," Kadri told his team's web site on Tuesday. "Obviously we're getting losses and it overshadows everything else that we're doing. There are a lot of positives and I feel like, despite the results, we've taken steps in the right direction."

With some help from Kadri, the Leafs were able to get themselves back in last Wednesday's game after falling behind 3-0 to the Senators in the first period. Kadri tallied a power-play goal early in the third period to make it a 3-2 game, but Toronto was never able to even the score.

Erik Karlsson potted the eventual game-winner for Ottawa with 4:40 left in the third. James van Riemsdyk made it a one-goal game for Toronto again with 1:23 remaining, but the score would remain 4-3.

David Clarkson also scored for the Maple Leafs, while James Reimer gave up all four goals on 26 shots in the loss.

Toronto is just 1-9-0 in January and has lost 14 of 17 dating back to the middle of December. The current six-game swoon is the club's longest losing streak since a 0-8-0 stretch from March 16-29 of last season.

The Devils, meanwhile, have seen better results since firing head coach Peter DeBoer in December, going 5-5-1 since the coaching change. Still, New Jersey finds itself five points in back of Toronto in the East and 15 points out of a playoff spot.

New Jersey entered the break on a positive note, completing a 2-1-0 road trip with a 5-2 win in San Jose on Jan. 19. The Devils hope to carry some momentum from the successful swing back home, as they kick off a five-game homestand tonight.

Jacob Josefson scored a short-handed goal and added an assist to help Jersey slam the Sharks last week. Cory Schneider made 34 saves for the win and Steve Bernier, Travis Zajac, Jordin Tootoo and Mike Cammalleri all lit the lamp for the Devils.

"I thought everyone stepped up," said Schneider. "We played unselfishly, we played together."

Devils forwards Jaromir Jagr and Tuomo Ruutu missed all three games of the recent trip due to illness, but both players were at practice on Tuesday and are expected to play tonight. However, centerman Travis Zajac is questionable for Wednesday after missing Tuesday's practice with an illness of his own.

Schneider will get the start in net tonight for the Devils and he boasts a 2-0-2 record and 1.93 goals against average in four career games against Toronto. New Jersey's workhorse goalie picked up a win in Toronto on Dec. 4 by stopping 29-of-32 shots in a 5-3 victory.

With the Leafs also scheduled to play tomorrow night against visiting Arizona, Reimer and Jonathan Bernier are likely to split starts over the next two games. Reimer is 4-2-2 with a 2.35 GAA in his career versus New Jersey, while Bernier is 2-2-0 with a 2.67 GAA in this matchup.

The Devils have won two in a row over Toronto and have earned a point in their last four outings (2-0-2) against the Leafs. Jersey also halted a three-game home slide versus Toronto with a 3-2 win at Prudential Center on March 23 of last season.

Toronto has lost seven straight on the road overall and is just 7-13-3 as the guest this season. New Jersey is 7-7-6 as the host.