Leafs host Senators in season finale - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Leafs host Senators in season finale

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By Anthony Giornalista

Stats Senior Writer

Ottawa (36-34-11) at Toronto (33-35-13), 7:00 p.m. EDT

TORONTO (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a playoff drought

that is unprecedented in their history. Under Cory Clouston,

the Ottawa Senators' play down the stretch suggests a postseason

return next year is very possible.

Having improved since Clouston took over as coach, the Senators

look to end their subpar season with a win when they face the

Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

While Toronto (33-35-13) - one of the league's "Original Six"

teams - will miss the playoffs for a franchise-record fourth

straight season, Ottawa's run of 11 consecutive postseason

appearances will come to an end.

The Senators (36-34-11), though, have changed their fortunes

since Clouston was brought up from Binghamton of the American

Hockey League to take over after Craig Hartsburg was fired

February 2. Ottawa is 19-10-4 under Clouston, who became the

team's coach on a full-time basis after signing a two-year

contract Wednesday.

Though it will finish in 11th place in the Eastern Conference,

Ottawa has plenty to look forward to heading into next season.

"We showed a lot of character battling back," Senators winger

Jesse Winchester said.

Ottawa won a franchise-record nine straight home games before

losing, 3-2, to New Jersey in a shootout on Thursday night. The

Senators played the Atlantic Division champion Devils tough

after beating conference champ Boston and playoff-bound

Philadelphia in their previous two home games.

Ottawa's winning streak at home included a 2-1 win over Toronto

on March 9.

Dany Heatley, who had a goal for the Senators in that contest,

needs one more to reach 40 for the fourth straight season. The

All-Star winger has four goals in his last three games.

He'll be facing a Maple Leafs team that has allowed a

league-worst 284 goals. Toronto, the only team that will finish

behind Ottawa in the Northeast Division, has given up 30 goals

in its last seven home games, going 3-4-0.

The Maple Leafs have been plagued by inconsistent goaltending

all season. On Wednesday night, Curtis Joseph suffered his NHL

record-tying 452nd loss as Toronto fell, 3-1, to Buffalo.

Joseph is tied with the late Gump Worsley for the most losses in

league history.

Joseph, fourth on the career victory list with 454, won't be in

net Saturday. Martin Gerber, claimed off waivers from Ottawa on

March 4, is expected to start in place of the 41-year-old

Joseph.

Gerber struggled in the playoffs last season as Ottawa was swept

by Pittsburgh in the first round. He hopes to return to Toronto

next season to back up Vesa Toskala, who has been out since

early March due to groin and hip injuries.

"Overall, playing here was really a great experience," Gerber

told the Maple Leafs' official web site. "I think things are

going in the right direction."

Gerber is 5-5-0 with a 3.34 goals-against average in 11 games

with Toronto. He's 2-3-0 with a 3.01 GAA in five games versus

the Senators.

The Maple Leafs have lost their last two home games, getting

held to a total of three goals, but have won both matchups

versus Ottawa in Toronto this season and scored three in each.

The Leafs lead the season series, 3-1-1.

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