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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, December 19th (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (18-10-5) at Toronto Maple Leafs (17-16-3), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of struggling clubs in desperate need of a win will meet Thursday, as the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Phoenix Coyotes at Air Canada Centre.

Both the Coyotes and Maple Leafs are coming off consecutive 3-1 losses and those two-game slides are part of a larger trend for the scuffling teams. Phoenix has lost four of six and eight of its past 12 games, while the Leafs have dropped five of six and 10 of the last 13.

One positive for Phoenix heading into tonight's meeting is the fact that the Coyotes have been successful against the Maple Leafs recently, winning six straight in the series overall and three in a row in Toronto. The Leafs haven't beaten the Coyotes since winning in Phoenix on Oct. 23, 2003.

The lone bright spot for Toronto over the last six games was Saturday's 7-3 home win against Chicago, but the Leafs have gone without a point in two outings since that rout of the defending Stanley Cup champions. Toronto lost Monday in Pittsburgh by a 3-1 margin and lost by the same score the following night against visiting Florida.

Mason Raymond tallied the lone goal for the Maple Leafs in Tuesday's setback against the Panthers, while James Reimer allowed all three goals on 23 shots.

"I think fatigue seemed to play a part tonight more so than last night's performance. We started flat and didn't have any energy to get involved. All the 50-50 pucks that were available to us, I would say they won the majority of them," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle.

It was the third loss in four home games for the Leafs, who are now 11-8-0 on home ice this season. Toronto is currently in the midst of a three-game homestand that will end Saturday against Detroit.

Phoenix is playing the second test of a four-game road trip tonight and lost for the third time in four away contests after Tuesday's 3-1 loss in Montreal. The setback dropped the Coyotes to 8-7-3 as the road team this season compared to a stout 10-3-2 mark in the desert.

The Coyotes carried a 1-0 lead into the third period of Tuesday's game against the Canadiens, but Montreal scored three unanswered tallies over the final 20 minutes to skate away with the win. The Habs scored the first two goals of their rally on the power play and Max Pacioretty sealed the victory with an empty-netter in the closing seconds.

Mikkel Boedker notched the Coyotes' lone goal, while Mike Smith stopped 25-of- 27 shots for Phoenix, which still hasn't won in Montreal since Oct. 28, 1996.

"We took two penalties in the third period and they capitalized," Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said. "That was the difference in the game."

The Coyotes will continue their road trip Saturday in Ottawa before closing the swing Monday against Buffalo.

12/19 11:16:05 ET

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