Canadiens likely to go with Halak against Leafs

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Montreal (40-27-10) at Toronto (32-33-13), 7:00 p.m. EDT

TORONTO (AP) -- With starting goaltender Carey Price out,

Jaroslav Halak stepped in and continued the Montreal Canadiens'

surge with a strong effort against a woeful Eastern Conference

foe.

Trying to keep the Canadiens' drive for a second straight

playoff berth moving, Halak will likely be in net again Saturday

night against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Saturday night's game

at the Air Canada Centre.

Price helped Montreal rebound from a season high five-game skid

by allowing nine goals during a 3-0-1 stretch, but he came down

with the flu before Thursday night's game at the New York

Islanders. Making his first start since a 5-2 home loss to

Toronto on March 21, Halak stopped 26 shots in a 5-1 victory

that pushed the Canadiens into seventh in the East.

Montreal (40-27-10) has a tenuous grip on that spot - one point

ahead of the eighth-place New York Rangers and three in front of

Florida with a game in hand on both teams.

"We're not looking at where we're at in the standings. We're

just looking at winning games," Canadiens forward Alex Tanguay

said. "Points are crucial, and it's going to be no different for

us Saturday in Toronto."

Montreal has split its two visits to Toronto this season,

winning 6-1 on Oct. 11 behind 24 saves from Halak but falling

6-3 on Nov. 8 with Price in net.

Aiding Halak on Thursday, the Canadiens scored three power-play

goals against the Islanders. They are 10-for-30 with the man

advantage over the last five games, equaling their power-play

goal total from the previous 13 contests.

"We feel good," said Tanguay, who has five goals and nine

assists in his last 11 games. "We've played better, and

hopefully, we can keep on improving. We are a team that felt at

the start had a lot of potential. We maybe underachieved but

even though we're 77 games into it, the season is still young,

and we can still make some good things happen."

Saku Koivu opened Thursday's scoring on the man advantage and

Alexei Kovalev had a season-high three assists to extend their

respective point streaks to five games. Left wing Andrei

Kostitsyn, though, likely will miss Saturday's game after

suffering a cut over his eye.

Out of playoff contention for the fourth straight season to

extend their Stanley Cup drought to 42 years, the Maple Leafs

(32-33-13) have given up 22 goals while dropping three of their

last four games. Toronto, which owns the league's worst defense

with 266 goals allowed, matched its season high in that

department Friday night in an 8-5 loss at Philadelphia.

The Maple Leafs scored all five of their goals in a 15:34 span

that began late in the second period, but otherwise failed to

impress coach Ron Wilson.

"We had some guys who basically mailed it in tonight and didn't

want to compete," Wilson said. "We knew that they would come

hard."

Trying to avoid finishing last in the Northeast Division in

consecutive seasons, Toronto leads Ottawa by one point.

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